The Industry & History
of South Beach
Miami is a diverse, vibrant arts community, home to many artists, filmmakers, musicians, actors, and storytellers. During their time at NYFA South Beach, students can explore the city’s unique history and use it to inspire their art. For those who choose to stay and reside in South Beach, Miami offers ample opportunities in independent film, music, television, and entertainment, as well as many annual film festivals and industry events.
South Beach and the surrounding Miami area is a major arts hub for filmmaking, television, media, as well as top advertising agencies, independent film companies, newspapers, consumer magazines, and publishing companies. South Beach is also home to the Spanish-language network Univision and has a growing improv, comedy, and theater scene with seasonal and annual festivals including the internationally renowned art fair Art Basel.
The city of Miami and the neighborhood of South Beach (in Miami Beach) are two of the most culturally diverse areas in the U.S., with various entertainment, art, dining, and beaches. The area has a rich history in the arts, starting in the 1910s and 1920s when many of Miami’s historic neighborhoods and landmarks were built during Florida’s land boom. The Lyric Theater, now called the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex, opened in 1913. The theater was the first and last entertainment venue to operate in the area known as “Little Broadway” for nearly fifty years. The Little Broadway era of Miami has been compared to the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. The Lyric is the oldest theater in Miami and is open again after being refurbished and renovated in 2000.
The Tower Theater and The Biltmore Hotel were also built in 1926. The Tower Theater, where NYFA occasionally holds special events, is located in what is now called Little Havana. The Biltmore Hotel was a shooting location for future television shows such as CSI: Miami (2002) and Miami Vice (1984).
In 1933, Liberty Square (now called Liberty City), the first public housing project for black Americans in the United States, was built on the outskirts of Miami. Liberty City would be the filming location and backdrop to the 2016 Academy Award-winning film (Best Motion Picture), Moonlight, which highlights many of the challenges the black community in Miami faced during the 1980s. Miami was also home to Fleischer Studios in the 1930s and early 1940s, known for their animated cartoons Popeye, Betty Boop, and Superman.
In the 1940s, many iconic Miami hotels, such as The Delano, The Raleigh Hotel, and The Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club opened, ushering in an era of elite entertainment and travel. The Raleigh Hotel would go on to be featured in Miami-based films such as Bad Boys (1995) and The Birdcage (1996), while Pal Joey (1957) with Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Kim Novak was shot at The Cadillac. The Art Deco district, where fashion designer Gianni Versace famously lived, also built a majority of their now historic buildings in the 1940s. The 1940s were also a great start to filmmaking in Miami, with films such as Moon Over Miami (1941), 30 Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), and Key Largo (1948), using the city and beaches as their backdrops.
During the 1950s and early 1960s, the arts, film, television, and music in Miami continued to thrive. There were 15 sold-out performances by Elvis Presley, as well as performances by B.B. King at the Olympia Theater. In 1951, Josephine Baker, a black dancer and singer of the time was famously invited to perform at the Copa City Club in Miami Beach. Singer Joyce Bryant, known for her silver hair and sultry style, also performed in Miami in 1952, making history as the first black performer at a Miami Beach Hotel, the sophisticated Algiers Hotel. In 1964, Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay) famously enjoyed a bowl of ice cream and spent time with Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown at The Hampton House motel after his historic “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” fight. The events of that evening were dramatized in the 2020 film One Night in Miami, directed by Regina King.
Producers also took advantage of Miami’s sunny, warm weather, filming hit television shows such as The Jackie Gleason Show (1952), Flipper (1963), and Gentle Ben (1967). During this period, Lincoln Road was also redesigned by Miami Beach architect Morris Lapidus in the Miami Modern Architecture style (MiMo). Lincoln Road reopened in 1960, featuring many options for entertainment, dining, and nightlife. It is still one of the most exciting areas in the city.
Miami is home to immigrants from all over Latin America. In the 1960s, many Cubans left Cuba after the Cuban revolution, immigrating to the United States and making Miami, specifically the neighborhood now known as Little Havana, their home. The incoming immigrants helped diversify the community, creating a foundation for all immigrants, and establishing Miami as a Latin American city. Little Havana, for example, now offers an array of restaurants, cafes, live music venues, shops, and festivals that celebrate Latin culture, including the Ball & Chain bar and lounge, where entertainers such as Billie Holiday and Count Basie played.
The youth counter-cultural movement in America also found its way to Miami in the 1960s, with many local writers, artists, and filmmakers in the Coconut Grove neighborhood experimenting with political and social themes in their art. Influential films, such as The Bellboy (1960) starring Jerry Lewis, also continued to use the city as a location. The Bellboy, for instance, was set and filmed at the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel. The 1970s and 1980s brought even more film, media, and television to Miami. The filmmakers behind Black Sunday (1977), Caddyshack (1980), Body Heat (1981), and Scarface (1983), took advantage of the city’s many tropical, urban, and suburban backdrops, clearly demonstrating how versatile the area could be for film.
In the 1990s, major companies and cable networks, including Univision, Venevision, and Telemundo, grew the Spanish-language television industry in Miami with programming designed for the expanding U.S. Hispanic population.
It was also a significant era for television, as CBS launched successful variety television shows based in NYC such as The Jackie Gleason Show (1952-1970) and The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971), as well as long-running game shows such as What’s My Line? (1950-1967). The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) created and aired the first nationally televised children’s show from New York, The Howdy Doody Show (1947).
Films including Striptease (1996), The Birdcage (1996), Donnie Brasco (1997), Wild Things (1998), and There’s Something About Mary (1998) were shot here, followed by popular films such as Iron Man III (2013), Moonlight (2016), Baywatch (2017), The Irishman (2019), and Bad Boys For Life (2020). In 2013, NYFA South Beach opened, adding to the vibrant fabric of artists and visual storytellers in the city.
Students study full-time during their time at NYFA South Beach and may complete an internship to begin their exploration of a professional field. Miami offers a significant amount of opportunities in filmmaking and the visual arts, with ample music video and commercial work, as well as roles in major motion pictures, Spanish-language and independent films. Students may also participate in a number of local annual and seasonal film festivals.