Oct 5, 2022 - News

Protesters slam Miami's plan to make Tower Theater a tourist center

Protesters gather outside Tower Theater in Miami, waving signs and chanting.

Protesters gathered outside Tower Theater in Little Havana on Tuesday to protest plans for the city-owned theater. Photo: Martin Vassolo/Axios

A couple dozen protesters gathered yesterday outside Tower Theater to condemn the City of Miami's plan to convert the art-house movie theater in Little Havana into a tourist welcome center and performance space.

Catch up fast: Miami's government is reclaiming the city-owned theater after terminating a management agreement with Miami-Dade College, which has run the space for 20 years.

  • Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo, whose district includes Little Havana, defended the decision at a press conference Monday, saying the theater's attendance is low and the city wants to optimize the property after investing millions in renovations.

Details: The city plans to continue screening movies at the theater, Carollo said. But it will expand programming to include short documentaries catering to tourists regarding Miami's attractions and local history.

  • The theater — apart from serving as a welcome center with tourist pamphlets — will host plays and include a rotating art exhibit on the second floor, Carollo said.

What they're saying: Local filmmaker Chris Molina, who created a petition to save the theater, told Axios that the city's overhaul would "take the life out of" Little Havana.

  • "It's pretty disappointing that they have still decided to go through with this plan to create a visitor center when so many people already love it the way it is," Molina said.

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade College says it can make the same changes outlined in the city's plan without being removed as the theater's manager, Miami New Times reports. The management agreement expires in January.

  • "MDC can implement many of his excellent ideas in as little as 30 days — much sooner than a change in management," the college said in a statement about Carollo's plan.

What we're watching: Molina said protesters may have to show up in person to urge action from the City Commission, whose next meeting is Oct. 13.

  • "If a petition doesn't do it and a protest doesn't do it, we need to just take it to their face," he told Axios.

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