History of Broward County Film Society, Inc.

The Low Down (Not so Brief, but we'll fill you in!)

"It's a church!"
"It's not a church."
"It'a a church!"
"...it's NOT a church."

But the fun facts, described below will reinforce that Cinema Paradiso, which looks like a church from the outside, was indeed once a church. Today, though, it's one of Ft.Lauderdale's pearls, a cinematheque worthy of visiting at least once. (Because we know you'll continue to come back once you've experienced our Movie Theater even once!)


The Broward County Film Society was founded June 3, 1986 to introduce independent cinema to a South Florida audience base of more than four and a half million people.

In 1987 the Festival was named one of seven original Vital Cultural Institutions of the State of Florida by the legislature, the Governor and the Florida Arts Council. 
The Festival named Gregory von Hausch Executive Director in 1989.  That year the festival also created a Florida Student Film Competition that featured cash prizes.  Eastman Kodak launched its annual Educational Seminars Series.  Special guests included Michael Moore and Lynn Redgrave.
In 1990 the Festival became a three week event taking place from Miami to Boca Raton.  Martin Scorsese presented our Student Film Awards.  Guests included Marlo Thomas and Darren McGavin.
In 1991 the Festival launched Lifetime Achievement Awards and honored Peter Bogdanovich, Mark Rydell, Donald O'Connor, Vincent Price, Van Johnson and Burt Reynolds.  Guest presenters included Prof. Richard Brown of AMC's REFLECTIONS ON A SILVER SCREEN, Charles Durning, and Patrick O'Neal. Guests included Claude Atkins, Alan Rickman, and Samuel Z. Arkoff.  Ginny Miller and Gale Butler launch Entre Nous the support committee for the Film Festival.
In 1992, the Festival presented a special retrospective for honoree Audrey Hepburn, other guests included Audrey Hepburn, Vincent Price, Jennifer Beals, Alexandre Rockwell, Les Blank and Matthew Harrison. 1992 also marked our first year of screening IMAX film.  Other guests that year included Elliot Gould and Edward James Olmos.
In 1993 the Festival's student film competition went national.  Students from Yale, USC, North Carolina, NYU, UCLA, Florida State Univ. and Columbia won awards.  An Art On Film documentary series was added to the program list as was an Academy Award Documentary series.  Guests included Ashley Judd, Elisabeth Shue and Roger Corman received the Lifetime Achievement.
The 1994 Festival exceeded the combined cash receipts of the '92 and '93 festivals combined. More than 35,000 people attended the event which proved to be a major coup as Tropical Storm Gordon roared in and remained through the first five days of the festival.  Regardless the festival produced more sell-outs than anytime in its short nine year history.  The festival  also presented six U.S. premieres and one world premiere.  Festival films ended up on several top 10 lists. Special guests included Treat Williams, Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) and Martin Donovan.
The Festival has held a reception every year in Cannes since 1991, as well as a Los Angeles reception at American Film Market.  This event provides an opportunity for west coast media to be updated on Festival dates and special events. Cannes serves the world entertainment media.
In 1995 the Festival launched the first ever Film Festival in the Sky with Carnival Air Lines (every Fort Lauderdale bound Carnival flight included a Festival film).  An unprecedented Media Reception at JFK and a subsequent press conference 30,000 feet aboard a special flight to FTL made cinema history as well.  Special guests included Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Dany Delany, JT Walsh, Mia Sara, Tim Reid, Jason Connery, Jon Cryer and Gregory Hines.
In '96 the Festival featured 110 films from 30 countries and drew  57,000 admissions.  Guests included 100 celebrities: Tony Curtis, Gian Carlo Esposito, Noah Taylor (Shine) and Kevin Spacey.
The 1997 Festival honored director Robert Wise (West Side Story, Sound of Music), Arthur Hiller, Ben Gassara, Peter Bogdanovich, Gena Rowlands, Nick Nolte, Leonard Rosenman, Amanda Plummer, Fairuza Balk and Robert Forster
In January of 1998, the Film Society was named the fifth inductee as a Broward Major Cultural Institution as designated by the Broward Cultural Affairs Council.  The other organizations are Florida Philharmonic, the Florida Grand Opera, the Museum of Discovery and Science and the Museum of Art.  The Film festival broke all records with 62,000 attendees.  Special guests included John Frankenheimer, David Arquette, Christina Applegate and many others.  17 world premieres and over 120 films from 35 countries were featured in 300 screenings.
The 1999 Film Festival attracted over 66,000 attendees throughout South Florida as well as from around the world.  The festival presented over 120 films including world and national premieres. Among those premieres was GREY OWL,  a true historical drama starring Pierce Brosnan, and directed by Lord Richard Attenborough.  The film screened prior to our Opening Night Gala, and Lord Attenborough was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award on-stage at Parker Playhouse.  Closing the Festival at our Luminaries Black Tie Gala were special guests Norman Jewison, Eva Marie Saint, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas and Tim Roth.  The Festival moved into its first official, year-round home, the former Vinnette Carroll Theatre.  The 200 seat three-quarter, horseshoe shaped auditorium, originally built as a church, renovated as a live performing arts theatre in 1986 needed much repair as well as retro-fitting for film.
In January of 2000, the Festival, in partnership with the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, will presented a four day millennium-cinema celebration.  On four successive days, Cinema Paradiso presented films from the 60's, 80's and 90's. The 15th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival ran October 16 - November 12, 2000, once again claiming the distinction of the world's longest film festival.  Special guests included Peter Falk, John Waters, Howard Keel, Rob Morrow and director George Sidney (Bye Bye Birdie, Kiss Me Kate, Showboat, Viva Las Vegas, Annie Get Yor Gun).  Over 66,000 people attended.  A Cultural Facility Grant to the State was voted the 13th most important of 66 projects and funded just under $200,000.  A campaign raising the match of $400,000 began, as did a three stage renovation.
In January of 2001, Cinema Paradiso officially opened.  An intensive Capitol Campaign is now underway.  The lobby and restrooms have been renovated and refurbished.  New drapes have been made and hung in the auditorium.  The infrastructure allowing us to retrofit the theatre as a movie cinema has been completed.  The administrative offices have been completed.  The exterior has been painted.  The courtyard built and landscaped.  Exterior low voltage, high intensity lamps have been installed.  The remaining items call for new seats, painting of the interior of the auditorium, new carpeting, and an exterior marquee.  From January thru August over 350 screenings have taken place.  In February we began a nine week intensive filmmaking course at Northeast High School.  Their original went on to win the Miami Children's Film Festival.

In June we launched LOCAL FILMMAKER NIGHT, providing up and coming filmmakers with opportunities to screen their movies. In July we began Movies in the park at DDA Plaza, presenting free films for families.  The 16th Annual Fort Lauderdale Int'l Film Festival ran October 17 - November 11 in Miami, Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach and Fort Lauderdale.  Special guests included Jonathan Silverman, Paul Mazursky, Paul Sorvino, Lorri Bagley, Peter Hewitt, Laura Frasier.  The event took place primarily at the Las Olas Riverfront and represented their biggest 12 day event ever.


Cinema Paradiso finished its renovation in August of 2002, new seats, seating areas, platter, screen, sound system (Dolby Digital), carpeting, handicap bathroom, painting, and cafe equipment were installed or constructed.  A weekly outdoor movie was launched at Beach Place as was a monthly program at Weston.  The 17th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival took place from October 18 - November 24th. Special guests included Matt Damon, Leslie Nielsen, Steve Guttenberg, Irvin Kershner, Maria Bello and more than 150 independent filmmakers around the world.
The 18th FLIFF ran from October 17 - November 16, 2003.  A new format of using Cinema Paradiso (October 17- November 16, 2003) for Sunshine Celluloid, American Indies, Shorts, and Documentaries; and Parker Playhouse for the World Cinema and Competition screenings (November 7 - 16).  Special guests included Nestor Carbonnell (Star on the Horizon recipient), Jacqueline Bissett and Sir Ben Kingsley (both Career Achievement recipients). 
The 19th FLIFF began on October 14 and will ran through November 21, 2004.  Special guests in attendance were: Andrew McCarthy, Fred Willard, Christopher McDonald, Cara Buono plus filmmakers from Nepal, South Korea, India, Sweden, Scotland, France, Croatia, Checkoslavakia, Italy, Spain, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Canada, and throughout the US.  Venues and cities included: Weston, Coral Gables, Delray Beach, Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale.  Other outreach cities: Highlands North Carolina, Key West, Seaside, Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, and Labelle.  In December we launched the 1st Annual CAN Film Festival for Charity which presented five Christmas films with two cans of food or one new toy per person.  Proceeds benefited The Broward Partnership for the Homeless and The Haitian Relief Effort.   We also began a monthly film for The City of Hollywood.
The 20th FLIFF began on October 14 and ran through November 20, 2005.  Special guests in attendance were: Arthur Penn, Irene Cara, Josh Jackson, Michael Moore, Kyle Schmidt, Veronica Cartwright, Christian Kane.  This was the year of Hurricane Wilma.  On October 24th one week into the fest, Hurricane Wilma slammed into Fort Lauderdale.  On Sunday, the night before, we concluded our last screening of the night at 9pm.  As the audience left Cinema Paradiso, the wind was howling through the streets.  Little did we know, in less than eight hours, half of the School Board building would be in our Courtyard.  Our stained glass windows knocked out and torrents of rain poured over the projector, sound board and festival 35mm films.  All infrastructure was knocked out in east Ft Lauderdale and would remain that way for most for at least eight days.
However, by Friday morning power was restored to Cinema Paradiso.  By 6pm that evening, we were showing films.  People flocked to CP for escape, air conditioning, a cold bottle of water or a beer, and yes, even hot showers.  Halloween fell exactly one week after Wilma knocked out the city.  FLIFF created a Haunted House, a pumpkin patch, gave free hors drawn hayrides along the river, held scream & costume contests onstage, showed Halloween films and cartoons for kids' and somehow, over 600 children and their parents found their way to our doors that evening, and FLIFF, without one major corporate sponsor, literally saved Halloween for those families with no where to go that dark, humid evening in October.
The 21st FLIFF opened on October 20, 2006 with VOLVER at Parker Playhouse with over 1800 people trying to get into one of Parker's 1200 seats.  Special guests in attendance were: Ian Ziering, Joe Pantaliano, Ernie Hudson, Mel Stuart, Connie Francis, Wil Shriner and Trevor Morgan. VOLVER was named Best Film; CANVAS won the Audience Award; BIG BAD SWIM won Best American Indie.  During this time we also launched our Weston Foreign Film Series. 
The 22nd FLIFF opened on Oct 15, 2007 and ran through Nov 11. Special guests were: Eric Roberts, DB Sweeney, Richard Kind, Dennis Farina, Keith David, Davy Jones, Douglas Spain, Sarah Jones, Mary Stuart Masterson, Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley, Edgar Mitchell and Stephen Baldwin. 
The 23rd FLIFF opened on Oct 15, 2008 and ran through Nov 11. Special guests were: Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Richard Chamberlain, Giancarlo Esposito, Jane Lynch, Alexie Gilmore, John Ratzenberger, Brandon Routh. 
The 24th FLIFF opened on Oct 23, 2009 and ran through Nov 11. Special guests were: Matthew Broderick, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Jai White, Joyce DeWitt.  FLIFF became the only film fest in the State to win funding from the Florida Arts Council.  FLIFF also learned it was one of the very few Knights Arts partnerships to be funded in 2010.
The 25th FLIFF opened on Oct 22, 2010 and ran through November 11. Special Guests were: Edward Burns, Michael Murphy, Claire Bloom, Jimmy Bennett, Jane Russell, Leslie Caron, David Keith.  The Festival also launched its partnership with Grand Bahama Island with a screening of BENEATH THE BLUE on November 8th.
Earlier in the year, The Film Society produced AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 NIGHTS during which we celebrated 80 different countries on 80 separate evenings with music, food, fashion and film from the selected countries.  The screenings were free of charge and FLIFF partnered with groups whose roots sprung from the selected countries to provide the food at a modest charge which benefited the partners exclusively.

The 26th FLIFF ran Oct 21 - Nov 22, 2011.  We honored Dennis Farina, Piper Laurie, Sen George McGovern, Penelope Ann Miller, Dennis. Haysbert, Larry Mullen, Jr and Beau Bridges. FLIFF On-Location: Grand Bahama Island ran Oct 27 - 30 and was the first ever film fest on the island.  Our filmmakers overnighted on the Bahamas Celebration for the cruise to GBI.  The fest was presented at pelican Bay Resort plus a huge Opening Night Party at Smith Point with a free outdoor screening of BENEATH THE BLUE, filmed on and around GBI.

The 27th FLIFF ran October 19- Nov 11, 2012.  Honored guests included James Caan, Carroll Baker, GianCarlo Esposito, Bailey Madison.

The 28th FLIFF ran Oct 18 - Nov 11, 2013.  Honored guests included: Ann-Margret,Ed Asner, Tab Hunter, Lea Thompson, Anna Paquin, Finola Hughes, Pauly Cohen, William Grefe, Guy Harvey,Ben Stassen, Hannah Tointon, Jonas Armstrong, John Shea, Bruce Dern, Flora Spencer-Longhurst. The French Minister of Culture presented FLIFF President, Gregory von Hausch with the Chevalier des Artes et Lettres for his contributions in presenting French Cinema.

The 29th FLIFF ran Oct 10 - 16 (with Focus On Romania) and Nov 7 - 23, 2014.  Honored guests included Jason Alexander, George Hamilton, Mike Downey, Daniel Baldwin, Stephen Daldry, Pamela Shaw, Sen Bob Graham, Rep Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and Clara Mamet.. 

FLIFF FUN FACTS ...(If we had a 'trivial pursuit game) 

  • Highest Rated Film Festival in the State of Florida (Florida Arts Council)
  • One of five Major Cultural Institutions (Broward Cultural Council)
  • Only film festival in the South to receive four major grants from The Academy of Motion Picture 
  • Winner of The Moretti Award for Artistic Excellence
  • Florida's longest running film festival under the same direction (23 years)
  • Longest Film Festival in the world (Guinness World Records)
  • Top Tourist Related Project in Broward County
  • Biggest motion picture event in the South.
  • Named by Variety as one of the top hot festivals in the nation.
  • Awarded the Golden Orange Award by The Florida Film Critics for our service to Broward County following Hurricane Wilma.
  • Biggest Outreach Program of any film festival in the State: Key West, Doral,Miami, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, South Beach, bay harbor Islands, North Bay Village,  Hollywood, Pembroke Pines, Weston, Davie, Sunrise, Plantation, Wilton manors, Pompano, Deerfiled Beach, Margate, Tamarac, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Immokalee, Fort Myers, LaBelle, Daytona Beach, St Augustine, Jacksonville, Amelia island, Tallahassee, Grand Bahama Island and Highlands, North Carolina.
  • Named one of the top destination film festivals in the United States by Movie Maker Magazine
  • Cinema Paradiso, FLIFF's year-round art house, has been named Best Art Theatre in South Florida by New Times BPB, City Link, and Boca Raton Magazine.
  • Nick-named by filmmakers - The Friendly Film Festival
  • Based on a study performed by The University of South Florida, FLIFF's economic impact on Broward County is in excess of 20 million dollars