Olympia Theatre at Gusman Center

174 E. Flagler Street,
Miami, FL 33131

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David_Schneider
David_Schneider on October 24, 2017 at 11:27 am

The Main Library in downtown Miami has a videocassette (VHS) copy of a collection of short documentary films made locally in the mid-1980’s called “A Few Things I Know About Miami” (which I just noticed was first mentioned here by Al Alvarez in his comment dated May 24, 2005).

The first, about 6 minutes long, is called “On Flagler Street” featuring a former manager of the Olympia named Jimmy Barnett describing the heyday of the movie going experience along Flagler street which he feels lasted from the 1930’s to about 1955.

The film includes archival Movietone newsreel footage of the grand opening of the Miami Theater across the street and actor Jimmy Stewart arriving at the premier of “The Glenn Miller Story” at what might be the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables (it simultaneously premiered at the Miami and Carib), as well as historic still photo shots of various theaters in downtown Miami when they were open.

The film ends with Mr. Barnett inviting you to follow him on to the stage of the Olympia where he explains he had worked for 18 years, at one point as “captain of the balcony”, and becoming manager in December of 1950, while we see shots of the auditorium. He says the Olympia also hosted many shows and famous people during his tenure.

David_Schneider
David_Schneider on May 16, 2016 at 11:22 am

An article in the January 27, 1975 issue of Box Office, “Nickel Shows, Live Music, Tents: Miami’s Early Film Days Recalled”, says that someone named Robert K. Andre was “building an ornate self-scale replica of the [Olympia] in a two-story building off Bird Road”.

I wonder what became of this. Has anyone seen it? What was it like? Are there photos?

David_Schneider
David_Schneider on May 15, 2016 at 10:48 am

Olympia official website is now: http://www.olympiatheater.org/

Olympia Facebook page.

Olympia Twitter page.

The Olympia celebrated its 90th Anniversary on February 27th, 2016 with a showing of “Dick Tracy”.

Video and article: “Miami’s Most Beautiful Venue Is Getting Its Second Wind“.

Monthly free jazz concerts are held in the lobby.

In 2015 I took a tour of the Olympia. One interesting thing is there’s a collection of signatures of mostly famous performers and politicians who have appeared there on some doors just offstage on the left (from the audience’s point of view) of the stage.

On June 14th, 2015 I toured the Tampa Theater. I mentioned to the tour guide that parts of the interior, like the second floor lobby, looked something like the Olympia. After the tour, before the film began (“Key Largo”, as part of their Summer Classic Film Series), she found me in my seat to tell me she had found out the two theaters have the same architect, then left saying “Now I have to visit Miami”.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 11, 2012 at 9:21 am

The closing never actually took place. It just ran stage shows for a while.

guarina
guarina on July 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Ellegant, with its star-studded sky-ceiling, when it was a movie theater, the Olympia was the Miami counterpart of the Washington Heights RKO Coliseum. I now see the Olympia was originally a Paramount theater. I saw “Dr. No” there with Sean Connery and Urusula Andress and “How to Murder Your Wife” with Jack Lemmon and Virna Lisi. It has lost much of its grandeur.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on October 9, 2010 at 11:38 pm

This site has a number of photos of the theater as the Olympia as well as details of Elvis Presley’s appearance there in 1956: http://www.scottymoore.net/olympia.html

sporridge
sporridge on June 29, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Endangered again. Yet another unfortunate outcome of Maurice Gusman entrusting the venue to the Miami Parking Authority.

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Jorge
Jorge on February 9, 2010 at 7:24 am

Here is a music video which was filmed in this majestic theater (note: song in spanish by international artist Chayanne):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJJbrBEZqy8

Here is a short ‘making of’…you can really appreciate the theater in this vid since its in glorious color.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arhgPlsevzg

Enjoy!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 19, 2009 at 4:47 pm

The Olympia with a name it apparently never carried.

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 29, 2009 at 8:53 am

How the boxoffice used to face:

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 29, 2009 at 8:43 am

Vintage shot of the Olympia marquee circa 1928 (BEAU BROADWAY):

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 29, 2009 at 8:35 am

The mezzanine of the Olympia:

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 24, 2009 at 5:58 pm

The name here should be changed to Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

http://gusmancenter.org/

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm

The city of Miami did not rename the Olympia. Maurice Gusman saved it from the wrecking ball, refurbished it into a concert hall and named it after himself. He then left it to the city when he passed away.

Louis of Pompano
Louis of Pompano on August 27, 2008 at 5:19 pm

LM, as ALWAYS! That is a beautiful pic! Nice. I still don’t understand why Miami has a tendency to rename established institutions. I would have never used Gusman Hall to rename this popular theatre. If it started as the Olympia it should remain that way forever.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 17, 2008 at 11:13 am

Sparks' Theatre News, 1932-33.

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on April 7, 2008 at 10:53 am

Great shot, LM. Elvis himself did once perform live at the Olympia.

bornjaded
bornjaded on March 3, 2008 at 10:33 am

Just visited this theater for the first time, yesterday, for a restored print of ‘Once Upon a Time in the West,’ presented by the Miami International Film Festival. Architecturally, it seems an exact replica of the Tampa Theatre, which is to say, it’s awesome. The presentation, however, is lacking. The screen does not appear to have proper movable masking, aperture shadow was present through some of the film, and the screen is not quite wide enough to fully convey 2.35:1. Worst of all, however, the acoustics are very bad. A large wooden stage extends from the screen, and there’s not enough carpeting in this cavernous space to absorb the sonic stuff, rendering all audio tinny and echoey. I couldn’t make out about 15% of the dialogue in the I was watching. Management seemed overworked and preoccupied.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on August 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

I finally found the Publix-Sparks connection.

According to MARQUEE Edward Sparks was General Manager for Paramount-Publix in Florida. He apparently named, what eventually became Florida State Theatres, after himself in the 30’s.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 17, 2007 at 7:17 pm

Here is that mystery link to SPARKS' THEATRES I mentioned above.

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on July 17, 2007 at 2:15 pm

Before it was demolished for the Olympia, this site was the Hippodrome.

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Keiko
Keiko on June 26, 2007 at 8:06 am

After being awarded an inspection and repair contract for the Gusman Center in 1992, InterAmerica Stage, Inc. provided rigging hardware upgrades, control system repairs and installed a new orchestra shell ceiling hoist and controls. The theatre recently underwent another renovation led by Architect R.J Heisenbottle & Associates. A new auditorium lighting bridge and other improvements were achieved. Every year the Miami International Film Festival is hosted by the Gusman Center.

http://iastage.com/historical_renovations

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 21, 2007 at 7:55 am

Although the Olympia appears to have opened at a PUBLIX theatre, the precursor of ABC Florida State Theatres, I have recently purchased a January 1932 Newsletter from SPARKS' Theatres listing it as one of theirs on that date.

January 29, 30, 31 RUDY VALEE in Person!
Stanleigh Malotte at the mighty organ!
Saturday Midnight Show at 11:30pm Eddie cantor in THE KID FROM SPAIN

Other sites included are:
Coral Gables (not the Gables on Ponce de Leon)
Paramount (downtown house looking nothing like the one I remember) Roxy (24 East 1st Avenue)
Rex (205 East Flagler Street)
Rosetta (Little River, later a Wometco site)
Community (Miami Beach)

Does anyone have any info on SPARKS and their Miami history? I had never heard of them and I worked for ABC for over 7 years in the 70’s.

RobbKCity
RobbKCity on June 17, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Yes, regarding the claim of the Olympia being the “first of many atmospheric Eberson theaters,” according to information posted on this site:

The Dallas Majestic Theater opened in April 11, 1921.

/theaters/227/

The Wichita Orpheum Theater opened in September 4, 1922.

/theaters/381/

The Houston Majestic Theater opened in January 29, 1923.

/theaters/1672/

The Capitol Theater, Chicago, opened January 19th. 1925

All preceded the 1926 opening of Eberson’s Paramount Olympia in Miami.