World’s largest classic film festival keeps growing

Kimberly Valle, Staff Reporter

The Plaza Classic Film Festival, the world’s largest classic film festival, is expecting approximately 40,000 attendees from all over the country. The seventh-annual event will officially begin on Aug. 7.

The idea for the festival began in 2008, with a simple conversation between the CEO and founder of the  El Paso Community Foundation, Eric Pearson, and Vice President and co-founder, Charles Horak. They talked about a possible film series and bringing back movies to the downtown Plaza Theatre, which was a movie palace in the ‘30s.

“We wanted to make sure that people knew that the Plaza Theatre and the city facility was theirs and it was a gift from the El Paso Community Foundation,” Pearson said.

Pearson said this year will be different as they have renovated the idea of a film festival.

“As we get older and we see all these movies come out, we have changed our philosophy, definition of a classic film and broaden it a bit,” Pearson said. “We will have a whole bunch of outdoor stuff. We have an exhibition of beautiful movie posters from around the world right now at the El Paso Museum of Art.”

The Plaza Theatre is a part of the history of the city. The attractive venue adds an element of nostalgia, making it seem like you are stepping into a mid-20th century era.

“El Paso deserves excellence, every time we can achieve it, it is rewarding to us, we pour our hearts and our souls into the community,” Pearson said.

Loida Martinez, UTEP alumna, said that her first time attending the festival was such a fun experience and she has been attending every year.

 “It was a blast. We had to go back and watch a couple of other classics. I’d definitely recommend students, graduates, families and everyone to go. It’s such a fun experience,” Martinez said. 

Henry Arrambide, UTEP alumni and filmmaker, has shown his work at the festival two previous times and said he’s very excited to be given the opportunity to feature his films again this year.

“The Arts Festival Plaza is a really cool little piece of downtown El Paso and to have this little local showcase of talent alongside these classic film venues was nice,” Arrambide said.

Arrambide first showcased his short dark comedy film, “Monday Morning Coming Down,” in 2011, and two years later his short drama film, “At the Door.” Both films have been part of The Good, The Bad, and The Indie local showcase that the festival holds each year. 

This year, Arrambide submitted stoner comedy entitled “Rick Mysteryson,” as well as surrealist drama, “All My Plans Lead Nowhere.”

More than 80 movies will be featured at six different locations near the plaza, between Aug. 6–Aug. 17.

The event will open up with the feature film, “The Seven Year Itch,” starring Marilyn Monroe. 

This year, there will be a big festival warm-up event featuring “Field of Dreams” at 8 p.m. on Aug. 6 at Southwest University Park.

“People should definitely get to experience and support this event. I think it has become such a big success with everyone, because the fact that there is a film for everyone to enjoy,” said Oscar Garza, a recent UTEP graduate. 

Special guests such as Ryan Piers Williams and Shirley Jones will sign autographs for a fee at the Camino Real Hotel on Aug. 9. Robert Wagner will also make a special appearance and sign copies of his new book, “You Must Remember This,” about the Hollywood of the ‘40s and ‘50s,
on Aug. 16.

There will be some private receptions and hosted series of free film talks throughout the festival.

“Its really about showing films and concerts,” Pearson said.

Playwright and screenwriters Beth Henley and NMSU’s Mark Medoff will also be attending. Henley appears with “Crimes of the Heart,” which is based on her Pulitzer-winning play, and Medoff will appear with his “Children of a Lesser God,” based on his Tony-winning play.

Raul Armendariz, junior environmental science major said he is looking forward to the festival’s atmosphere.

“This would be my first time attending the festival and I am excited to experience it,” Armendariz said. “I really would like to watch the Wizard of Oz.”

The Plaza Classic Film Festival will also be celebrating several anniversaries, including the 75th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” on Aug. 9 the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ debut in the U.S. of “A Hard Day’s Night,” and the 30th anniversary of the movie “Purple Rain,” starring Prince.

For the entire schedule of the showcase and details about the event, visit plazaclassic.com. Tickets are on sale at the Plaza Theatre box office and through ticketmaster.com. You may also buy a festival pass for $200 for admission to all of the films, a jump-the-line express lane and more.

Kimberly Valle may be reached at [email protected]