Jackie Gleason Theater: Away It Goes!

Plan to revamp Miami Beach Convention Center would demolish iconic theater

The Jackie Gleason Theater, a Miami Beach landmark where Gleason filmed his TV show in the 1960's, could soon be demolished.

"I was flabbergasted," said Miami Historian Dr. Paul George when he heard the news of a plan that would revamp the Miami Beach Convention Center and tear down what is now known as The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

"This building has seen better days," said Stu Blumberg, standing in front of the 60-year-old iconic theater Tuesday. "It can come down."

Blumberg was the theater's assistant manager when Gleason first came to town, so if anybody cares about Jackie's legacy, it's him. But Blumberg's also the co-chair of the convention center expansion committee which is hoping to add more meeting space and a parking garage.

"People wanted to come to this destination for their meetings and conventions, but said 'you've gotta do something with your building, you gotta update it,'" said Blumberg.

But why does a convention center expansion have to affect the Gleason Theater? The expansion committee said the upgrade has to include an adjoining hotel. And the best location for that hotel, is on southeast corner of the convention center where the theater currently stands.

"You'd stop a lot of people in this city and say to them, 'You coming to The Fillmore?' To see who?" said Blumberg.

Well, not the 6,000-plus people who joined Darren Bruck's Facebook page called Save The Fillmore at Jackie Gleason Theater.

"I'm very passionate about the fact that if we take down this building, we're doing an injustice to the community in Miami Beach," said Bruck.

Bruck and his friends plan to voice their concerns at a community workshop on the subject next week. In the meantime, they've made t-shirts that say, "Save The Fillmore."

"I think if you take away this building, you take away music in Miami Beach," said Bruck.

The Jackie Gleason Theater is iconic, but not officially historic and therefore is not protected.

"It's had too many alterations, so it doesn't really come under those guidelines," explained George.

Blumberg promises that the new hotel would also include Gleason in its name.

"I will forever keep his name alive in the project," he said.

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