Local Limelight: Secret Celluloid Society

Cinephiles across South Florida certainly have their fair share of options. Between the major chain theaters with several locations, like AMC and Regal, and the several independent cinemas such as Coral Gables Art Cinema, O Cinema, and Miami Beach Cinematheque, just to name a few, there really is no shortage of variety on any given night. When did we get so lucky?

Among the many scheduled screenings at these locations, there has been a noticeable rise in demand for the midnight/after-hour screenings of classic films, especially those in 35mm — something offered by most of the aforementioned theaters in some capacity. While these theaters put together some impressive programs, nobody puts on quite a show like the Secret Celluloid Society.

Nayib Estefan, Secret Celluloid Society’s founder, has a taste for theatrics.

Between 2013 and now, the Secret Celluloid Society has called many places home. There was a stint at the Blue Starlite Drive-In, the creation of Shirley’s at Gramps, and some remarkable runs at both Coral Gables Art Cinema and, more recently, at O Cinema Miami Beach. Now, they have ventured back to the other side of the MacArthur Causeway and taken up residence in the Miami Design District at the Nite Owl Theater. Throughout the years and changes in scenery, Nayib Estefan has cultivated and maintained a special and unassuming air at each and every SCS screening, one that has rightfully earned them a loyal following of local film aficionados.   

Simply put: There’s just a different vibe to a SCS screening — a shameless and infectious passion and joy that radiates from the one-man wrecking ball that is Nayib, a guy just looking to share his love of film with Miami. You can catch Nayib and his partner-in-crime, Bryan Herrero, walking around in their black jumpsuits before a screening, chatting it up with guests while putting on the finishing touches before the show begins. There are no presumptions or expectations. That is, you don’t have to be a hardcore film guru to have a great time at a SCS screening. Casual film fans or friends that have been dragged along for the ride can grab a beer and enjoy some of the hilarity that tends to ensue before the film reels start spinning.

Their homemade pre-show videos, which are always tailor-made for the movie of the night, are all hilarious. Before a recent screening of Taxi Driver, they played a chopped-up version of the trailer for Sometimes Sweet Susan, the adult film Travis Bickle thinks makes for a good date-night flick. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is preceded by instructional videos on the making of chocolate. You get the picture. They also make it a point to mention that the 35mm reels they use may very well have scratches and even entire scenes missing, the latter of which tends to elicit a good laugh from the audience — something that might be the cause of outrage in most other settings. But Nayib and those in attendance understand that it’s all just part of the experience and magic of being able to watch a celluloid print of a film that is often decades old.

If you have yet to experience a Secret Celluloid Society screening and find yourself near the Design District on a Saturday evening, consider spending the night with what is sure to be a welcoming crowd of local film lovers. SCS will be screening Dirty Dancing (1987) this Saturday at 10:00PM. Doors open at 9:00PM and tickets are $10.  

Mario Avalos is a senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, along with certificates in Film Studies and Professional and Public Writing.