Digital Gym Cinema reopens with special Sundance programming
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Digital gym, cinema operated by media art center. San Diego has been going through a lot of changes. It lost its El Cajon Boulevard space. Before the pandemic found a new partnership with UC San Diego and is ready to reopen later this month with special Sundance film festival programming, KBB arts reporter, Beth Amando speaks with manager Moise as spaza about what people can expect at the new venue.
Speaker 2: (00:25)
Moise digital gym cinema has been closed during the pandemic, but you've been having virtual screenings, but it's very exciting news that this January to kick off 2022 digital gym cinema will be reopening. So where does everything stand right now?
Speaker 3: (00:42)
We've been dark for almost 18 months and we move from our home location to downtown things stand near the end. Right now we are putting the finishing touches on our cinema, ordering some new equipment, including a new projector are kind of rushing here at the end to get everything done in time for Sundance screenings, which start on January 28th. But, you know, we would've liked to have opened much, much earlier, but we've just run into a lot of pandemic related issues with supply and demand and deliveries and shipments and everything is even though the world seems to have started again, there's so many operational things that still seem to be a bit stuck. So we've been fighting that current quite, quite a bit over the last couple of months, but we are committed to opening our cinema at the end of January. We're calling it our preview weekend and we're doing that with these amazing Sendent screenings that we have planned.
Speaker 3: (01:44)
And then we might take a couple of weeks off to maybe iron out some of the issues we may have encountered during our preview weekend. We'll be making some improvements to cinema that are scheduled for, um, March. And then we're gonna reopen officially as a fully functioning cinema, seven days a week, a little bit after March. So we're just excited to get the momentum going. And we consider ourselves really, really lucky to have been able to partner with Sundance and for these screenings to coincide with the grand reopening of our cinema. We miss screening movies. We miss creating a communal cinematic experience to shared experience with their supporters. And we're really happy to be on the verge of reopening here
Speaker 2: (02:30)
Now for people who don't know the digital gym cinema is reopening inside the UC San Diego market and park building. So what can people expect here in terms of the size of the cinema and what it's gonna be like? The
Speaker 3: (02:44)
Cinema will be inside, uh, U C S D's new extension building at park and market. It's a state of the art facility, four levels, uh, the media art center, San Diego, which manages a digital gym cinema will also be headquartered there on the third floor. The digital gym cinema will be on the second floor, more seats, uh, a new projection system, uh, new sound system, new amplifiers. I mean, we we've really gone all out with, with, with this three opening and making modifications that we thought were diff were necessary to do friend ourselves from the, uh, location that was formerly on Oklahoma Boulevard and kind of entering this new, this new phase of our cinema, um, at the new U C S D building, the building itself will be primarily a cultural hub of different events, not just ours, there's a large auditorium on and, and, and on the main floor, there's a cinema on the second floor. Um, there's a huge courtyard space where you can host screenings or concerts. So beyond our programming, which will be primarily film focused, obviously the, the new space will always be activated with cultural events, which we're, you know, really excited to be a
Speaker 2: (03:59)
Part of. Let's talk a little more about Sundance because this is a unique event at this point in time, because Sundance usually is completely self-contained within its own festival, but you have been designated as kind of a satellite offshoot venue. So what does that mean and what can people actually get to see?
Speaker 3: (04:19)
Yes. So being a satellite screen for Sundance is, is, is, is a tremendous honor for the honor for the organization. And what it means essentially is that we're a community screening venue for Sundance. We're one of seven, uh, we're the only one in California. And we have, uh, satellite siblings all over where the United States, that's what we're calling each other in our meetings, satellite siblings. Um, so people in AMS, Massachusetts, or Memphis, Tennessee, each have a designated satellite screen. And we happened to be the satellite screen for San Diego. This program actually got started last year in the wake of the pandemic and Sundance decided to open up their screenings to new cities across the nation. And they're continuing this program this year, cuz they had such a tremendous success with it last year. And we, we feel incredibly lucky to be one of seven independently own art house cinemas that are participating in this program. And you know, the films that screening our Sundance exclusive Sundance premieres. So if individuals over, if the San Diego public, once they get a taste of what type of films they screen at Sundance, you know, we are gonna be offering eight amazing features and a collection of shorts that will give our San Diego community a taste of what the Sundance film for festival really is.
Speaker 2: (05:43)
And so will all these films then be in person or is there a virtual component and is it kind of that concentrated festival feel about it? Yeah. So
Speaker 3: (05:52)
This will be a concentrated group of films. We will be screening them in person. Sundance does have virtual screening options, but we are not affiliated with those. One of the requirements to being a satellite screen is that you'd be able to host screenings in person. So we will be doing just that eight features and one shorts program. And we're gonna try to create a film festival experience to the best of our abilities. We'll have a step and repeat a red carpet, a small reception on the launch night, which is January 28th with beer tasters, some music. So we're, we're trying to create a festival atmosphere. We're trying to bring Sundance to San Diego. And you know, one of the amazing things about outgoing to a film festival is listening to Q and A's with different filmmakers. And as a satellite screen, we've been assigned to do a Q and a for one of the films and then we're gonna share our Q and A's with the other satellite screens. So I'll be playing the Q and A's after each feature that we're produced by the other like satellite screens and beyond the films, we wanna activate the courtyard space that's right outside of our cinema. Um, but the idea is to not only, you know, play these Sundance films, but to also kind of let the community know that we're back and to introduce 'em to a new venue
Speaker 2: (07:15)
And what can people expect in terms of the COVID requirements.
Speaker 3: (07:20)
We're gonna be following city ordinances. We're gonna be requiring vaccinations for all of our guests. Employees will also have to be fully vaccinated. We'll be asking that customers as well as employees remain masks while inside the movie theater and in the lobby areas. And then we're gonna be paying SP actual attention to any new ordinances that come up between now and January 28th. But as of now, we are planning on producing these screenings in person and we'll just be follow the ordinances I just mentioned.
Speaker 2: (07:53)
Well, I wanna thank you very much for talking about the reopening of digital gym cinema. Thank
Speaker 3: (07:58)
You so much, Beth.
Micro cinema hosts festival films Jan. 28 through 30 at new downtown venue
Digital Gym Cinema, operated by Media Arts Center San Diego, has been going through a lot of changes. It lost its El Cajon Boulevard space before the pandemic, found a new partnership with UC San Diego at a downtown location, and is ready to reopen later this month with special Sundance Film Festival programming.
The truly independent Digital Gym Cinema has been dark for almost 18 months. The wonderful micro cinema that specialized in foreign and independent films stayed vibrant with virtual screenings during the pandemic. The cinema is now poised to reopen for in-person events on Jan. 28 at its new location inside UC San Diego's new downtown Extension Building at Market Street and Park Boulevard.
"Right now, we're putting the finishing touches on our cinema, ordering some new equipment, including a new projector," said Moises Esparza, exhibitions manager. "We're kind of rushing at the end to get everything done in time for our Sundance screenings, which start on Jan. 28. But we would have liked to have opened much earlier, but we've just run into a lot of pandemic related issues with supply and demand and deliveries and shipments. Even though the world seems to have started again, there's so many operational things that still seem to be a bit stuck."
When I spoke with Esparza on Monday, he was waiting for the cinema's new projector, which had been delayed in shipping. It is a stressful time from an operation side. But Esparza is thrilled at the opportunity to be welcoming people back into the cinema where watching a film is a community experience and there is an opportunity for discussion.
Digital Gym Cinema will try to replicate the Sundance Film Festival experience with an opening night reception, step-and-repeat on a red carpet, and post film discussions. The three-day event running Jan. 28-30 will showcase eight feature films and one shorts program. A limited number of all-access passes are currently on sale.
"Being a satellite screen for Sundance is a tremendous honor for the organization," Esparza said. "We're a community screening venue for Sundance, one of only seven and the only one in California. This program actually got started last year in the wake of the pandemic and Sundance decided to open up their screenings to new cities across the nation. And they're continuing this program this year because they had such a tremendous success with it last year. And we feel incredibly lucky to be one of seven independently owned art house cinemas that are participating in this program."
Although Digital Gym Cinema will be open for in-person screenings at the end of the month, it will officially reopen after March.
"We're calling Jan. 28 our preview weekend, and we're doing that with these amazing Sundance screenings that we have planned," Esparza explained. "And then we might take a couple of weeks off to maybe iron out some of the issues we may have encountered during our preview weekend and will be making some additional improvements to cinema that are scheduled for March, and then we're going to reopen officially as a fully functioning cinema seven days a week, a little bit after March."
I visited the cinema last summer and you can see where it was at back in June. I will be returning later this month with an update on the venue.
For full disclosure, I volunteer as a programmer at Digital Gym Cinema through the non-profit group Film Geeks San Diego.