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Digital Gym Cinema reopens with special Sundance programming

"Marte Um (Mars One)" is one of the Sundance Film Festival features screening at Digital Gym Cinema at the end of January.

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.

Sundance Institute Eliza Morse.
Keke Palmer and Common appear in "Alice" by Krystin Ver Linden, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

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.

Previewing The New Digital Gym

For full disclosure, I volunteer as a programmer at Digital Gym Cinema through the non-profit group Film Geeks San Diego.