Tehran’s Legendary Miami Cinema to Turn Into Cultural Center

The Tehran Municipality purchased the 57-year-old Tehran (former Miami) cinema in 2007. The once beautiful and ornate movie theater has since fallen into ruin. But there is hope: according to the Iranian Students News agency (ISNA), the Tehran’s Department of Art and Culture for the 12th District plans to convert the old Miami cinema into a cultural center by the end of summer. The department took over management of the building in March 2017.

The landmark Miami cinema is located in the heart of Tehran – in Imam Hossein (formerly Fouzieh) Square. Many cinema lovers reminisce about having watched their favorite films for the first time inside this theater. Miami and Morad were two of the most popular cinemas in Tehran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“In the 1960s, Fouzieh Square was the main hangout for young cinema lovers,” recalled Ahmad Talebinejad, a prominent writer and film critic. “The Morad cinema was in the same vicinity, although it showed mostly B- and C- movies. Miami, however, showed high quality films. We couldn’t wait for Friday afternoon to go see a film at Miami. We used to stand in long lines, as if we were awaiting to see our beloved. Miami was our regular hangout. The first-ever photograph of me was taken in front of Miami cinema.”

The Miami movie theater was inaugurated in 1961 under the management of Vajibollah Shahidi. It had two screens and 668 seats. It was among a number of cinemas built by Jamal Mojtahedi and his sons Hamid and Majid, who were also film producers and distributors.

Yousef Balou, director of public relations of Tehran’s Department of Art and Culture for the 12th District, reassured the public that the building would not be knocked down, but rather preserved and renovated. According to Balou, the fate of the Miami cinema was discussed at a number of Tehran city council meetings. At one point, it was suggested that the building should be converted into a multiplex cinema. In the end, the decision was made to refurbish the building and use it as a cultural center.

According to Balou, the roof of the cinema is severely damaged. Tehran’s Fire Department has issued a number of notices for code violations, and demanded that immediate repairs be made to the building.

“The main hall will be renovated and used as a cinema,” Balou said. “We hope to turn the building into an art and culture complex and convert many of the rooms into workshops and theater classes.” The initial cost of renovating the cinema will be around $600,000.

Mohammad Qased Ashrafi, head of Iran’s Society of Cinema Owners, said: “Miami was under private ownership. It was sold after facing financial difficulties. It changed ownership a few times before it was finally bought by the Tehran Municipality.”

Ashrafi added that his organization was not consulted about the sale of Miami to the city. “It would have been better if they had consulted us, if for no other reason than to register the sale and determine if they had paid their union dues.”