Miami Herald, The (FL) - June 2, 1983
Author: CHRIS VAUGHAN Herald Staff Writer

The Rex theater , a battered survivor of porn and neglect, is nearing yet another comeback.

The 54-year-old movie house in the 7900 block of NE Second Avenue has been closed since a failed salvation attempt four years ago. It will reopen as a Haitian-oriented theater this summer if HAYTO Services, a Haitian partnership with offices at 7220 N. Miami Ave., can obtain the city license it needs.

City parking regulations currently stand in the way, said Fritz Henriquez, manager of the firm, but an exemption to current parking regulations -- one parking space for every four seats--may be "grandfathered in," Henriquez said.

The Rex has 700 seats, which means 175 spaces would be required if no exemption is granted. There are 25 spaces behind the building and about 50 parking meters on the street near the theater .

"We really do not need all those spots," Henriquez said. "Most of the people who will come to the movies are from the Haitian community. They will walk."

The Rex is at the edge of Little Haiti, which has no theater catering to the tastes of its more than 25,000 Haitian residents. Henriquez says the fare at the Rex will be mostly French movies. The theater may show English- and Spanish- language movies once a week.

"We will have to see what people want," Henriquez says. "To show only French movies would be killing ourselves, I think."

Admission will be $2, with some reserved seats for $2.50, Henriquez says. At those rates, he figures, "I need 1,000 people a week" to break even.

Henriquez and two partners in Haiti began efforts to buy the theater in March. They have sunk about $25,000 into renovations.

"We’re trying to open this month, but the way things are going, we will try to open the first week of July," Henriquez said.

"It will be a clean place again," he vowed. As he spoke, a workman swept steadily in the newly painted lobby. The candy counter was cracked and dusty, but the floors were clean. Outside, the red marquee shows its age. Inside, the red velvet seats appear in good repair.

"It will be nice for the neighborhood," said Alma Camacho, a waitress at the El Paso Coffee Shop next door to the Rex. Camacho attended movies at the Rex "when it was good, not when they had those X movies." But she probably will not attend shows there in the future, she said.

"When work is over, I’m on my way home. I don’t stay around here at night," she said.

Chris Crickmore, 18, of 82nd Street by way of Dayton, Ohio, said he won’t go to the Rex, either.

"I don’t know French. I like American movies, the modern ones," Crickmore said.

Amy Johnston, an employe at Barnett Bank across the street, was more concerned about the kind of movies the Rex will show.

"What kind of French movies?" she asked suspiciously.

Assured they would be family fare, she breathed easier. "As long as they don’t put those X-rated ones in again, I guess it’s a good thing. The neighborhood sure needs something."

Lochard Noel, a clerk at Les Cousins Book & Record Shop, 7858 NE Second Ave., was enthusiastic about the plan. "They have a Rex in Port-au-Prince, too," he said. "All the Haitians will go."

But the ticket seller at United Adult Movies, 7829 NE Second Ave., offered no encouragement to the backers of the Rex.

"They’ll never make it," he said. "They tried running straight movies before and it didn’t work. Take it from me."

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