In Retrospect: Feature Films

The Gateway Theatre started as a venue for some of film’s biggest world premieres. Today, it has transformed itself into a setting for indie films—and nostalgia.

PICTURE THIS: In less than 10 years, Gateway Theatre earned the rights for the world premiere of the hit film “Where the Boys Are,” which brought Hollywood stars to Fort Lauderdale.

By Jessica Organ

Before Gateway Theatre was a theater, it was a lion breeding pit. The McKillop-Hutton Lion Farm supplied the big felines to circuses and zoos. Later, famed animal trainer and circus performer Clyde Beatty purchased the operation and opened Clyde Beatty’s Jungle Zoo. After several contentious years filled with escaping monkeys and complaints from neighbors, Beatty closed the zoo’s doors. Eventually, Miami-based company Wometco purchased the land and drew up plans for a glamorous theater.

Gateway Theatre opened its doors in 1951 with a parade down Sunrise Boulevard and a screening of the comedy “Up Front.” On December 21, 1960, the theater showed the world premiere of “Where the Boys Are,” a coup in the swinging ’60s for the sophomoric establishment. That day marked the rise of the theater’s reputation for big premieres and big stars. Many famous faces from history have entered the theater’s halls, including Connie Francis, Kin Shriner and Lee Majors.

Modern times have turned Gateway into a venue for independent and foreign films. George Kaspriske, general manager of Gateway, credits the theater’s unique offerings for its continued popularity. “Our customers consider us an art house,” Kaspriske explains. “They love the upscale films we get and our attention to personal service.”

Customers also appreciate the sense of history. Photographs and newspaper clippings from the past 60-plus years adorn Gateway’s walls, providing testament to the theater’s many memories. Although there have been upgrades over the years, such as a recent conversion from 35 mm projectors to digital technology, the theater has maintained most of its classic décor, including its brightly lit marquee and vintage movie posters.

Gateway hasn’t strayed too far from its dramatic performance-centered beginnings, either. On the first, third and fifth Saturdays of every month, the theater presents “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Locals dress up in elaborate costumes to see the cult classic, dance and enjoy the theater’s “shadow cast,” which performs the movie while the film plays. While no lions roam, you can expect plenty of glitter, laughter and nostalgia.

Originally appeared in the Spring 2017 Issue.

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