Over the past 75 years, Miami Beach’s Paris Theater has played the roles of theater, Indie film house, adult cinema, nightclub, music studio. Next up: restaurant.
Mathieu Massa, owner and CEO of the Brickell-based Massa Investment Group and Mr. Hospitality, was set to present his conversion plans for the theater last week to the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board, according to an application submitted to the city. The board moved the item to its September meeting.
Massa bought the building in July 2020 for $13 million and, since then, received planning board approval for the conversion of the space at 550 Washington Avenue. Construction is expected to begin in late 2020 and last 12 months.
“This pandemic has put tourism in a coma and what better way to help revive the tourism industry than to unveil the new and improved historic Paris Theater? When Miami Beach awakens from this blackout, we will be an integral part of delivering to the city a unique fine dining, entertainment and event destination,” Massa said by email.
Famed Miami architect Henry Hohauser designed the theater, which opened in 1935. Massa hired the Miami-based Beilinson Gomez Architects for the renovations.
The plan calls for transformation of the four-story, 25,589-square-foot space — currently approved for a maximum capacity of 1,200 — to accommodate 377 seats and up to 1,499 people. Storm and sea-rise mitigation includes hurricane windows and “salt tolerant, highly water-absorbent” plants, according to the application.
Massa did not disclose the budget for the renovations.
“Currently there is a dearth of fine dining venues which can accommodate large groups of people,” Massa told the Herald via email. “The Paris Theater is one of the few venues able to accommodate more than 1,000 people and, if necessary, provide social distancing.”
Mr. Hospitality owns and manages several other large dining spaces, including Marion and El Tucán in Brickell. It also owns Bâoli Miami in Miami Beach. All are currently closed due to the pandemic.
Massa said he plans to add 120 employees to focus on the Paris Theater, growing his current staff of 200 people to 320 people by mid-to-late 2021.
Massa noted improvement in the Washington Avenue business corridor and the $620 million renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center as signs of a positive future.
“Miami Beach is now finally well positioned to compete with Las Vegas, Chicago, and San Diego in attracting some of the most exclusive and valuable international conventions and events,” he said.
Hohauser, the theater’s original architect, helped fashion Miami Beach’s historic district with designs for Art Deco-style hotels. and was dubbed one of the 100 most influential South Floridians in 1993 by the Miami Herald. The Paris opened on July 20, 1946 with two films — “Suspicion,” featuring Cary Grant, and “Bedtime Story,” starring Joan Fontaine.
Its storied history includes a 1990s chapter when it served as a music-and-video studio used by Madonna, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin. A-list fashion photographers Herb Ritz, Patrick Demarchelier, and Bruce Weber also used it as a backdrop for marketing campaigns.