The Plaza Classic Film Festival — which goes into its 14th year July 29-August 8, 2021 — was started by the El Paso Community Foundation in 2008 as a special project to bring movies back to the historic Plaza Theatre. The Community Foundation purchased 35mm and then state-of-the-art 2K digital projection equipment (upgraded to 4K in 2018) for the atmospheric theater, which opened in 1930, closed in the early ’80s, and was restored for $38 million in 2006 in a joint partnership between the City of El Paso and the Community Foundation.
The first Festival was called The Movies Return to the Plaza Theatre and was the brainchild of EPCF President/CEO Eric Pearson and movie enthusiast Charles Horak. It was a smash hit. More than 25,000 people turned out to watch more than 60 movies at the Plaza Theatre and adjacent Philanthropy Theatre.
It returned in 2009 with a new name, the Plaza Classic Film Festival, and a growing popularity in the region and throughout the country. Now the world’s largest classic film festival, the Plaza Classic averages attendance of 40,000 people a year, and has brought in a glittering array of celebrity guests, including Al Pacino, El Paso native Debbie Reynolds, Rita Moreno, Richard Dreyfuss, Eva Marie Saint, Kathleen Turner, Sam Elliott, Katharine Ross, Bruce Dern, Ali MacGraw, Tippi Hedren, Shirley Jones, Robert Wagner, Cindy Williams, animators Don Bluth (an El Paso native) and Gary Goldman, Peter Bogdanovich, Kathleen Quinlan, Louise Fletcher, Michael York, Nancy Olson, Candy Clark, Elsa Cardenas and Margaret O’Brien.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 edition of the film festival was staged on tour and online. Pop-up drive-in movies were screened over 11 nights at six locations around the El Paso metro area. Additionally, locally connected features, documentaries and the popular Local Flavor local film showcase were screened digitally, including a special screening of Amadeus and a Zoom interview with star and El Paso native F. Murray Abraham.
More than 480,000 people have attended the first 13 Plaza Classics. The festival has an economic impact of $1.5 million annually. About 15 percent of its audience comes from outside of the El Paso/Juarez/Las Cruces radius.
Plaza Classic has expanded its footprint and programming roster to include outdoor movies and concerts within walking distance of the Plaza Theatre.
The Plaza Classic Film Festival also has become a major showcase for regional filmmakers through its Local Flavor series, sponsored by the Texas Film Commission. It screens features, shorts, documentaries and other projects, and its audience has tripled in recent years. Last year, Local Flavor handed out $1,750 in cash prizes to local filmmakers in the third annual Local Flavor Awards, sponsored bythe Public Relations Association of the Southwest.
The festival is programmed by Doug Pullen of the El Paso Community Foundation staff, who works with an advisory committee made up of community volunteers and movie fans. Members are: Chris Canales, chief of staff of City Rep. Cissy Lizarraga; actor-screenwriter Camilla Carr (widow of screenwriter Edward Anhalt); El Paso film collector, film historian and Sunset Film Society Director Jay Duncan; El Paso Community College mass communications professor Lisa Elliott; Warner Bros. employee, TCM contributor and classic movie buff Jack Fields; Craig Holden, managing director of development for Texas Tech University’s Office of Institutional Advancement in El Paso; Julia Hussmann (widow of actor Pat Hingle); Jaime Mendez, film lecturer and director of the UTEP Student Services Center; Rebecca Mendez, program coordinator for United Way of El Paso County; CPA Terri Rutter; KVIA news anchor Stephanie Valle; and El Paso Leadership Academy Founder and CEO Omar Yanar.
A lot. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Plaza Classic Film Festival will move out of the Plaza theater to go on tour and online. It will include classic movies shown nightly at pop-up drive-in movies at various locations around the El Paso area, as well as a digital component on our streaming platform that will include Local Flavor submissions, documentaries and newer indie films, all of which are part and parcel of our traditional format. We’ll announce details soon.
Most of the FAQs that follow pertain to our traditional 11-day Plaza Classic in the Plaza Theatre and surrounding venues.
Come early, stay late, repeat.
We’ve created a number of ticketing options so you can enjoy a little or a lot (we recommend the latter). You can buy individual tickets, a Festival Pass, or, if you’re a high school student between the ages of 14 and 18 with a love for movies, you can get a Plaza Classic Film Club Pass.
The Festival Pass and Film Club provide preferred access to all PCFF screenings, talks and events. Show up, flash your pass and you’re in. Just remember you need to reserve your seats in advance for our screenings in the Philanthropy Theatre. The Festival Pass is transferable, so if you can’t make all the Plaza Classic’s events and screenings, share it with friends! See all the perks that come with your pass in the Tickets & Passes tab on this site.
For those joining us from out of town — or locals that want to totally immerse themselves — you can stay across the street at the Plaza Hotel at Pioneer Park (expected to open spring 2020) and the Hotel Paso del Norte (spring 2020 opening expected), three blocks south at the Stanton House or Aloft, three blocks north at the Courtyard by Marriott and the DoubleTree by Hilton, or fourth blocks east at the Hotel Indigo.
There is a growing number of nearby restaurants and bars within walking distance, including Anson 11, Starbucks and TCBY/Mrs. Fields Cookies in the Mills Building, and Cafe Central on the first level of the Texas Tower, across from the Plaza Theatre.
See our Accommodations page for more information.
Due to the different format for the 2020 Plaza Classic Film Festival, a Festival Pass will include admission to pop-up drive-in movies and access to digital streaming content. There will be no receptions or in-person guest appearances. We expect to return to our traditional format in 2021.
Each Pass holder will receive a copy of a commemorative program on the Plaza Theatre, preferred access to all screenings (so you can pick your favorite seat), a chance to reserve seats in advance for Philanthropy Theatre events, selected discounts and invitations to:
• A private reception with one of our celebrity guests.
• The Opening Night VIP screening in the Plaza Theatre’s Kendle Kidd Performance Hall.
• Your Festival Pass will also bring you discounts on food and drinks at local eateries Anson 11, Starbucks and TCBY Frozen Yogurt/Mrs. Fields.
• The Plaza Classic Film Festival commemorative poster.
You can order a Festival Pass (or Passes) by clicking on the link on the Tickets & Passes page.
Yes. Feel free to loan your pass to a friend, family member or anyone else who can use it. The Festival Pass is fully transferable and is your ticket for admission (no matter whose neck it’s hanging around).
Locations of the 2020 Plaza Classic Film Festival pop-up drive-in movies will be announced soon. The information that follows pertains to our traditional format in and around the Plaza Theatre.
All of our events are conveniently located in El Paso’s Downtown Arts District, just a few blocks from the downtown exits from Interstate 10. The majority of movies are scheduled for the Plaza Theatre and the adjacent Philanthropy Theatre. We also have events at the El Paso Public Library, the El Paso Museum of Art, outdoors on Oregon Street near San Jacinto Plaza and on the top floor of the Mills Plaza Parking Garage), and inside the El Paso Community Foundation’s Foundation Room, our banquet facility.
There are numerous parking garages within a few blocks of the theater, so can park your car inexpensively and hang out with us all day. The closest are:
• The Mills Plaza Parking Garage on Oregon Street (between Franklin and Main)
• The Convention Center parking garage on Santa Fe Street (between San Antonio and Main)
• The Union Plaza Transit Terminal on San Antonio Street (south of the Convention Center)
• The surface lot between Mesa, Oregon and Main streets (where the Coffee Box is located)
• The Bank of America building at the corner of Mesa and Main streets
Parking prices vary.
Many of the film selections are appropriate for the whole family. Most of the movies we’re showing in the Philanthropy Theatre during the day, in fact, were programmed especially for kids and families.
In most cases, we have scheduled films that may not be appropriate for children in later time slots and/or at times when there are other options provided.
Most films have an MPAA rating, though many older films are not rated, which are listed on the schedule in your program (if you’re not sure, check). We don’t want to impose our own criteria on what you take your family to, but we will be enforcing the rating system and have noted specifically where age restrictions will be applied, mainly to R-rated movies.
We want the Plaza Classic Film Festival to be as comfortable and enjoyable as possible for all our attendees and that may mean, in some cases, minors won’t be able to attend certain films that contain adult material.
Yes – but we’re not baby-sitters. Feel free to bring your appropriately-aged kids down and drop them off. But we do mean “appropriately-aged”! You’re the best judge of the maturity of your children, so we’ll leave that decision up to you.
Better still, consider the Festival as a great opportunity to take a day off from work and enjoy the last days of summer along with your kids. The air-conditioning is free.
Please note: The Plaza Theatre is an historic landmark and our staff will make sure all attendees respect this remarkable venue.
**Admission and operation hours for the 2020 Plaza Classic Film Festival pop-up drive-in movies will be announced soon. The information that follows pertains to the traditional PCFF format in and around the Plaza Theatre, which should return in 2021. **
If you haven’t been to the Plaza Theatre before — or at least not in a while — we’d recommend you leave ample time to park your car and enjoy a leisurely stroll to the Plaza. We typically begin seating guests 20 to 30 minutes before show time. Some of our popular evening and weekend shows will be full, so don’t be discouraged if you see a long line forming. The Plaza’s Kendle Kidd Performance Hall seats 2,050! Once we start letting ticket holders in, it doesn’t take long to find a seat.
We do recommend you purchase tickets or Festival Passes as early as possible.
The 13th annual Plaza Classic Film Festival runs July 30-August 9, 2020. Give yourself a little more time to park and walk over on those dates.
Several parking options are listed on this FAQ page.
Festival Pass holders will have an Express line, but we still recommend getting here a little early to insure your favorite seat is available.
Yes and no. Feel free to eat and drink all you want outside the Plaza Theatre and in the entrance hall, but there is no eating allowed inside the theater — please don’t test our ushers by sneaking food in. The Plaza Theatre, which opened in 1930 and was restored in 2006, is a regional treasure that has undergone a $38 million dollar restoration, expansion and certification as an historic landmark. Please respect the theater and all of its spaces so that we can all enjoy the Plaza for many years to come.
The theater does offer a selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages at the bar near the MacGuire Hall entrance. They are served in covered, Broadway-style cups that you may take into the auditorium.
If you’d like to eat or enjoy a libation prior to a screening or unwind with friends after, try Anson 11, Starbucks or TCBY Yogurt/Mrs. Fields Cookies inside the Mills Building next door, Cafe Central (behind the Plaza Hotel) or other nearby establishments.
See our Accommodations page for a list of restaurants and bars in the immediate vicinity. We encourage Festival attendees to enjoy a meal between films at one of the growing list of eateries in the area.
Anywhere you like (except in the theaters). We encourage all Festival attendees to watch multiple movies and enjoy a snack, lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants and bars in the area. Check out the Accommodations page for a few ideas.
Absolutely. During the course of the Festival, our wonderful team of volunteer organists will be performing on the restored Wyler Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ before each film screening in the Plaza Theatre, and off and on during the free Plaza Days programs in the Festival. We are fortunate to have the Plaza’s original, rare and fully restored theatrical organ, so come early and enjoy some great music on the Plaza’s Mighty Wurlitzer.
And don’t miss master organist Walter Strony when he returns to the PCFF to accompany a silent movie.
Right next door to the Plaza Theatre. The Philanthropy Theatre is a state-of-the-art digital cinema that is in the Plaza Theatre Annex, part of the Plaza Theatre complex. It’s on the second floor, above the box office. The Philanthropy Theatre’s entrance is located between the Plaza Box Office and the Plaza Theatre’s main entrance just under the marquee. The Philanthropy Theatre seats 191 people and has the latest in high-definition projection.
We’ll show a mixture of children’s movies, foreign films, documentaries and movies with local connections there.
Yes and no. Since we are the world’s largest classic film festival, we try to show 35mm film prints of many of the titles scheduled for the Plaza Theatre’s Kendle Kidd Performance Hall. We’ve worked hard to procure the best available film prints of each title and we’re pleased that the major Hollywood studios have provided us with mostly archival film prints when possible. But a number of the screenings will take advantage of newly produced, digitally restored versions of our favorite classics (a new 4K digital projection system was installed in 2018). These will be noted in the program and on the website.
In the Philanthropy Theatre, the El Paso Museum of Art auditorium, the El Paso Public Library and the Foundation Room, we will present digital screenings of all titles listed for these venues.
The outdoor films also will be digital screenings.
We hope to have some surpluses from the Festival, but this is a non-profit event and a special project of the El Paso Community Foundation. Most of the Festival staff are volunteers and the El Paso Community Foundation devotes enormous resources and expertise to making the Plaza Classic a success. Any surpluses the Festival may generate go directly to the Plaza Classic Film Fund, which is managed by the El Paso Community Foundation. Your support of the festival (through sponsorships, donations, and ticket purchases) will help insure there are more Plaza Classic Film Festivals in the future.
Remember, all donations, underwriting and sponsorships are tax-deductible! Contact us at email@example.com or 915-533-4020 if you’d like to make a contribution. Any time!
We are accepting contributions and underwriting support for the Festival.
If you’d like to help sponsor a film or event, please contact us through the Contact page, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the El Paso Community Foundation at 915-533-4020.
Absolutely! We will celebrate our 13th year from July 30-August 9, 2020.The Plaza Classic Film Festival is the world’s largest festival devoted to classic cinema. With your help, we hope to keep the Festival growing for years to come. So invite your out-of-town friends as well.
Sure. But be forewarned: we’re showing some of the greatest films ever made — in the region’s finest cinema venue. Don’t be surprised if some features are sold out prior to show time, or if there are long lines at the box office. The best way to guarantee admission is to buy your tickets early! You can get them at the box office, Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster outlets, or the Ticketmaster app.
There are no service charges when you purchase tickets at the Plaza Theatre box office; there are service charges when you buy them online, by phone, mobile app or at other locations.
Festival Passes are available by clicking the link on the Tickets & Passes tab or calling 915-533-4020.
Sign-up for our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us Twitter, monitor media coverage and keep watching this site. From time to time we’ll send out reminders and e-announcements to our mailing list to keep you informed of the latest news about the Plaza Classic.
Absolutely, and we can help coordinate ticket sales for groups of 15 or more. Just call the El Paso Community Foundation at 915-533-4020, go to the Contact page (preferably before the Festival begins) or inquire at the Plaza Theatre’s box office.
Oh yeah. Feel free to explore the entire range of seating options in the Plaza Theatre, including the balcony. We suggest you sit in different seats for each feature presentation so you can check out the wide range of perspectives the Plaza offers. The screen is huge, so you’ll get quite a view wherever you sit. Experiment.
It’s 44 feet wide! It’s also mounted on an armature so we can store it, intact, in the Plaza’s huge fly loft.
Because 11 days and 90 titles seems like a lot of time and space to play all our favorite films – it’s not. We think we’ve done a pretty good job of programming a diverse list of important and classic films, but there’s still plenty of great titles for next year (and the year after, and the year after…).
Some did, some didn’t, some we’re not sure about. A complete list of all the films that played at the Plaza doesn’t exist. The Plaza opened as a first-run movie palace in 1930 and closed in the ’70s. The Exorcist was one of the last first-run commercial movies to play there, so few titles released after that would have been seen there — until now.
Nope, don’t even think about bringing your 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-year old etc. As you’ll see in the Schedule, we may have a few adult-oriented features for which minors are specifically excluded from attending. Also, late show R-rated films will be monitored for compliance with standard MPAA rating guidelines. We ask you use good judgment in what your child should see and how their attendance may impact the enjoyment of others in the theater.