Absinthe House Cinematheque

235 Alcazar Avenue,
Coral Gables, FL 33134

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South Florida’s premiere arthouse in the 1980’s and 1990’s was created by Nat Chediak out a small children’s theater. Airplane style seats and great sight lines combined with some of the best movie released in two decades amde this location an oasis of international cinema that took up where the Mayfair and Sunset left off. From this tiny house grew the Miami Film Festival and the rebirth of latin Cinema in the U.S.

The Cinematheque introduced Fassbinder, Amodovar, Saura, Wajda, Guiterrez Alea, and Herzog to Miami film-goers. It was closed in the 2000’s

Contributed by A Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 13, 2006 at 7:28 am

How did this cinema acquire its unusual name ? Absinthe is a type of very powerful booze, potentially poisonous to drink, which was banned in the USA many years ago.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 15, 2006 at 5:06 am

According to The Miami Herald:

“The Absinthe House Cinematheque is named after the extremely potent and poisonous banned absinthe liquor, which appears in some of Hernandez-Canton’s (the owner) favorite works of literature from the turn of the century.”

The Absinthe was also know as the Alcazar in the nineties.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 15, 2006 at 5:07 am

Seating is around 199.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 27, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Also known as the Merry Go Round as both theatre and cinema.

rivest266 on December 17, 2008 at 6:07 pm

No showtimes anywhere, is this closed?

Ripshin on March 29, 2009 at 10:38 pm

I believe I saw all of the “missing” Hitchcock’s there in 83 or 84, just after their initial rereleases. My first viewing of “Rear Window” – I’ll never forget it.

guarina on May 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I’m not sure whether this is the Cinematheque where I saw foreign movies in the late 70’s. There was no absinthe then.

Ripshin on February 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Where is it in the above photograph?

David_Schneider on February 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

In the above Google Street View image The Absinthe House was in the part of the grey building that now says “ADC”.

At the time, as I remember, there may have been more open space with some plants where the window below the red awning is now, and the building was all red brick. … I walked by recently and only the shape of the building and entrance look the same, with seemingly nothing left of the theater on the inside.

The first time I visited in the mid 1990’s it was called the Alcazar Cinematheque. The entrance was at the end of the hallway that you can see flanked by plants in the Street View image. The front door resembled the front door to a house. A middle aged Latin American man to whom I paid admission was standing in a little rectangular opening just inside the front door on the right. Next to this ticket window was an open doorway to a room with a concession stand and some seating. If you walked straight a few feet instead of entering the room you would have reached the doors to the auditorium.

The next time I visited a couple years later it was the Absinthe House Cinematheque run by two guys in their 20’s, Johnny and Cesar. The ticket window/smaller concession stand was now next to the doors to the auditorium. The room where the concession stand had been was now reconceived by the guys into a space with couches, film posters, subdued lighting, multi-colored walls, and an artsy living room/den-type vibe. The rest of the lobby was a maroon/brick colored hue.

A few times I hung out in the artsy room after seeing a film and got to know the guys a little bit.… Once the projectionist, a middle aged man who spoke little English, sat there with us. He and I smiled at each other and I said he reminds me of the projectionist depicted in the Italian film “Cinema Paradiso”. Johnny understood I was referring to the man’s dedication and not just appearance, and translated what I had said for him. They exchanged a few sentences, then Johnny looked at me, and seemingly moved, said “That’s a compliment, man”.

On a later night, closer to the time the Absinthe closed for good, I recall a full house, perhaps for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Cesar spoke to the crowd before the film, thanking them for their support. As he exited up the aisle for the start of the show, some of his friends in the audience chanted “Hail, Cesar!”, in appreciation of the work the guys were doing to keep the place running.

Before the Absinthe closed, the guys opened the Mercury Cinema (later renamed Soyka) with a third guy, Ray, which was named Best Art Cinema by the Miami New Times in 2001 before it closed in 2003.

A Miami New Times article from August 6th, 1998: “The Intoxicating Absinthe”, about the opening of the Absinthe and its transition from being the Alcazar.

A Miami New Times article from July 1st 1999: “Off Camera”, about the then impending closing of the Absinthe, which was then delayed another year or so.

For a time the comedy troupe Just the Funny put on their performances in the space. The Absinthe House Cinematheque logo, with a depiction of perhaps a European-looking black cat, can be seen on this page about the troupe’s history.

Nat Chediak, who as mentioned above originally started the Miami Film Festival at this location, is now the nearby Coral Gables Art Cinema Director of Programming: “You’re Never Too Young or Old to Love Film

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