Sunset Theatre

5970 S. Dixie Highway,
South Miami, FL 33143

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This Wometco house from 1946 was, I believe, once a horse stable. It survived well into the 1970’s thanks to the population shift and the University crowd that sustained it as an arthouse venue.

The Sunset Theatre was smallish and non-descript with hardly a lobby but was often the only Florida run for Ingmar Bergman, Truffaut or Fellini movies and any soft-core vehicle that could be sold as “art”. Sometimes dated with the Mayfair, Parkway or Normandy.

It was demolished around 2014.

Contributed by Al Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

woody on November 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

seen here around 2004 minus the vertical signage but with the marquee still intact

Silicon Sam
Silicon Sam on November 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Judging from the ACI photos, the vertical sign came down between 1981 and 1985, while the theater was still open.

rivest266 on January 17, 2010 at 4:27 pm

This did not show up in the Miami News listings until 1952.

sporridge on January 17, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Mike, thanks for all the Miami News links — been equally fascinating to revisit the full theater listings from those times. As it happened, a reunion of Miami News staff took place this weekend:

View link

This link will probably be gone or transfer to pay-per-view in a couple weeks.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 17, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I found a Miami Herald article that confirms the Sunset opened in 1946 as the South Miami. In 1950 it became the Hiway and in 1952 it became the Sunset and was taken over by Wometco.

gailsey on April 21, 2010 at 6:24 am

Well, this may be a bit late, but yep, remembering Gallipoli as quite the tear jerker. I don’t think I was working at the Sunset at the time, but do recall many a slow night (especially during the week) where one of my functions as manager would be to convince the one or two who straggled in to LEAVE with a refund and a free pass to come back another night to avoid the costs of showing a film (yes they were films!) to just the couple of customers! I still have to look as I pass everytime I drive by when I am in town!

sporridge on April 23, 2010 at 4:25 am

Gailsey, glad you joined the conversation (some of these threads go on for years, it’s never too late). In light of your recollections, I’m glad my few trips to the Sunset were on busier weekends (it was a 90-mile round-trip for me, when Broward engagements weren’t imminent). When were you at the Sunset?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

W.F. Caudell and F.G. Murphy were the first owners of the South Miami Theatre according to an item in Boxoffice of June 24, 1946. Boxoffice of March 10, 1951, said that W.F. Caudell had reopened the Hi-Way Theatre in South Miami after remodeling the front, adding a new marquee, and painting and reseating the auditorium.

The July 1, 1953, issue of Boxoffice said that the Sunset Theatre at South Miami was being operated by Milton Frackman. The earliest mention of Wometco in connection with the house that I’ve found is in the April 9, 1955, issue of Boxoffice which referred to the Sunset as “…the Wometco circuit’s newest addition….”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Boxoffice always calls the house the Sunset Art Theatre. By the late 1960s it’s back to calling it simply the Sunset Theatre.

gailsey on May 3, 2010 at 1:19 am

In response to Porridge…. I worked as manager briefly, I don’t know, 3-6 months probably in the summer and fall of 1981. I worked at several of Wometco’s theaters in Miami learning all the trades… but relocated to Michigan and missed it all!! Its too bad Broward did not offer any similar showings, but then again where I live now I would have to travel a similar distance to see any “art house” offerings! I loved the Sunset though, its tiny concession stand, its tiny projection booth and its even tinier office!

David_Schneider on January 23, 2016 at 11:58 pm

The Sunset Theater was already closed when I arrived in Miami in 1987, so I never got to see what the inside looked like when it was open for business.

In the late 1990’s, I visited the marine/boating supply store that was then still open immediately to the left of the defunct theater. A doorway shaped opening had been created through the wall shared by the store and theater near the front of the store, so I walked through.

The seats and screen were gone and the walls were black. A garage door had been installed below where the screen would have been, probably for the boat trailers that were then in the old back parking lot. Behind me there was no lobby, just the front doors and dusty ticket booth. (I’ve heard the lobby had been small or almost didn’t exist, or there may have just been a curtain a few feet in from the front door to separate it from the seating area?) To the left of the front doors was an abandoned popcorn machine. Above all this I could see the square hole through which the projector had shone its lamp. …. I tried to imagine having seen films here, but felt like I didn’t have enough to go on.

A couple years later I read a Miami Herald article saying that the Bacardi family owned the property and there was talk of maybe reopening the cinema and adding some stores behind it. Then at some point I noticed some new walls installed just inside the front doors and a decal with the words “Rum Bum” above the door. There may have been a banner hung and/or I may have read that a surf shop was to open there, but months later nothing more was done.

I used to enjoy fantasizing about running a cinema there as I would walk by on my way to Winn Dixie or downtown South Miami, but at some point in the early 00’s, maybe 2003, it (and the marine supply store) was demolished.

The land was vacant for several years and now a large grey office/business building has opened on the property. The older buildings next door including Fox’s Sherron Inn (bar/restaurant from the 1940’s) have recently been fenced off for probable demolition, meaning all the surrounding buildings from the time of the Sunset Theater will soon be gone.

I imagine it was fun, back in their day, to have dinner at Fox’s then see a movie at the Sunset, or for drinks at Fox’s after a movie.

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