The Plaza Classic Film Festival — which celebrates its 16th year July 20-30, 2023 — 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 natives Debbie Reynolds, F. Murray Abraham and Germaine Franco (Encanto), 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, Margaret O’Brien, El Paso-raised documentary filmmaker Cristina Ibarra and partner Alex Rivera, and Iliana Sosa, an El Paso native and documentary filmmaker.
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. The 2021 edition also was adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, with seating capacity limited to 50%, more than 30 fewer movies due to a 2-hour disinfection window between programs and an altered footprint that included the Abraham Chavez Theatre and the Convention Center Plaza. The 2022 edition marked a return to normal for PCFF.
More than 525,000 people have attended the first 15 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, with 2022’s festival drawing guests from more than 50 cities around the country and other parts of the world.
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. The 2022 Local Flavor showcase was the first to be held in the Plaza Theatre, with curators Zach Passero and Lucky McKee handing out $2,500 in awards to four local filmmakers in the fifth annual Local Flavor Awards. The 2022 festival featured the first Plaza Classic Film Festival Screenwriting Competition.
The festival is programmed by Doug Pullen, program director of the El Paso Community Foundation. He works with an advisory committee made up of community volunteers and movie fans. Members are:
• Actor-screenwriter Camilla Carr (widow of screenwriter Edward Anhalt)
• El Paso film collector, film historian, collector and Sunset Film Society Director Jay Duncan
• El Paso Community College Mass Communications Professor Lisa Elliott
• Warner Bros. studio facilities staff member, 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
• Jaime Mendez, Ed.D., Assistant Dean of Students at the University of Texas at El Paso
• Rebecca Mendez, Program and Engagement Coordinator for the Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso
• Keri Moe, Associate Vice President of External Relations, Communications and Development at EPCC
• Erin Flores Ritter, Administrative Associate of the Texas Division of Emergency Management
• Kristin Trick, a licensed counselor and therapist at Sawyer Behavioral Health
• Certified Public Accountant Terri Rutter of Tammy Vasilatos CPA
• KVIA news anchor Stephanie Valle
This year’s Plaza Classic Film Festival will be July 20-30, 2023, a week earlier than usual. It’s our 16th annual. The bulk of the programming will be in the historic Plaza Theatre and the Philanthropy Theatre, which is inside the complex.
We’ll show more than 90 movies. Titles and special guests will be announced in the near future, but we can tell you that we’ll open July 20 with two matinees in the Philanthropy Theatre, a 7 pm sponsor appreciation night screening of Casablanca at 7 pm in the Plaza Theatre and a movie on the Mills Plaza Parking Garage.
The forward calendar move was made to accommodate the wishes of thousands of school children, their parents, and their teachers, whose academic calendar begins July 31. This allows us to bring back the children’s and family movies that were a staple of the Plaza Classic’s daytime programming for many years before the pandemic hit in 2020. Most area school districts went to a year-round academic calendar in 2021, with the school year starting a month earlier than before.
Our free outdoor movies will be July 21-22 and 28-29 on Oregon Street, between Mills and Main streets. Our 15th annual outdoor screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be July 22. Our annual Mills Plaza Drive-in/Walk-up movies will be July 20 and 27 (admission is $5 at the door) on the top floor of the Mills Plaza Parking Garage (with the Chase logo) on Oregon Street.
On July 26, we will show another movie on the 17th floor La Perla Bar patio atop the Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park. We’ll have our second annual movie-themed dinner at 5 pm July 24 in the Foundation Room, which will be tied to our 7 pm feature film.
We will have free programming in the El Paso Museum of Art.
For the second year in a row, the Plaza Classic Film Festival’s Local Flavor Showcase and Awards will be in the Plaza Theatre. Our second Plaza Classic Film Festival Screenwriting Competition will feature a pitch fest.
We have two passes for sale — the $100 Movies Only Pass, which allows admission to almost all ticketed movies (except the Plaza Hotel movie, and the Foundation Room dinner); and the $200 Festival Pass, which allows access to nearly all PCFF events, except the Plaza Hotel movie and the Foundation Room dinner. The Festival Pass includes discounts at three Mills Building businesses — Anson 11, Starbucks and TCBY/Mrs. Fields — as well as the new Howdy Homemade ice cream shop in the Roderick Artspace Lofts.
What isn’t different this year? Our ticket prices. We are doing our part to fight inflation and keep the festival accessible by keeping the same ticket prices we have charged for more than 10 years — $4 for all Philanthropy movies; $6 for matinees, $8 for evenings in the Plaza Theatre; $10 for Plaza Theatre movies with celebrity guests. They go on sale in June at the Plaza Theatre Box Office and Ticketmaster.com.
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.
For $200, each Pass holder will receive admission to most or all ticketed events, a skip-the-line option (so you can pick your favorite seat), a chance to reserve seats in advance for Philanthropy Theatre events and:
• Invitations to private special events, including a VIP reception after the opening night movie
• Discounts on food and drinks at local eateries Anson 11, Starbucks and TCBY Frozen Yogurt/Mrs. Fields.
• The Plaza Classic Film Festival commemorative poster.
We also have a Movies Only Pass for $100. It includes admission to most or all ticketed events, but does not include discounts or private event invitations. You can just focus on the movies you want to see.
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).
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 Museum of Art, outdoors on Oregon Street near San Jacinto Plaza and atop the Mills Plaza Parking Garage (with the Chase logo), on the La Perla Bar Patio on the Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park, 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 Plaza Hotel Parking Ramp (between Oregon and El Paso)
• The Hotel Paso del Norte Parking Ramp (corner of El Paso and Henry Trost Court)
• 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, including our free Plaza Days programs. In fact, we moved the 2023 PCFF up a week so we won’t conflict with the start of the school year on July 31. That means we can show more children’s and family movies!
In most cases, we have scheduled films that may not be appropriate for children in afternoon time slots, mostly in the Philanthropy Theatre.
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.
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 14th annual Plaza Classic Film Festival runs July 29-August 8, 2021. 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.
Due to capacity limits, it only will be used for our free Films Talks before the prime-time movies. Seating will be restricted to 100 at each lecture.
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.
Or you can contact festival director Doug Pullen at the phone number above or by email, email@example.com.
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, Plazaclassic.com, 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, visit our website, plazaclassic.com, 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.