Opinion: Our independent movie theater has found a new home downtown. Both sides of the border will benefit.

VanThillo is the founder and executive director of the Media Arts Center of San Diego, the Digital Gym Cinema and the San Diego Latino Film Festival. He lives in South Park.

For me, there’s nothing like the feeling of sitting in a dark cinema, next to people I know and people I’ve never met, watching a movie together on the big screen.

We provide this platform for community feedback for free. Thank you to all Union-Tribune subscribers whose support makes our journalism possible. If you’re not a subscriber, consider becoming one today.

For the past two years, the pandemic has driven us to our couches, devices, and arts and entertainment streaming services, and forced Media Arts Center San Diego to close the doors of our beloved North Park Digital Gym Cinema. . However, these challenges have also demonstrated how valuable it is for us as humans to come together in a common space to enjoy something someone has created – and how much of an impact we can have. on people’s lives through the arts.

That’s why I’m so excited to be a Resident Partner at UC San Diego Park & ​​Market, the new home of Digital Gym Cinema and all of our programs at the Media Arts Center in San Diego.

Beginning in April, our state-of-the-art 58-seat movie theater with a full concession stand will be open to the public in the Park & ​​Market building in the East Village of downtown San Diego, screening foreign films and independents from noon to 10 p.m., seven days a week. This will be a permanent screen for the San Diego Latin Film Festival and will bring many other festivals to our city – our satellite screening of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year we showed how successful these can be. Best of all, after school and during vacations, classrooms throughout the building will resonate with one of my favorite sounds – kids making movies – as we teach students the art of filmmaking in our Teen Producers Project and Youth Media Tech Camps.

But space itself isn’t the only reason we’re proud to partner with UC San Diego and be part of Park & ​​Market. There’s so much going on in San Diego’s thriving arts and culture scene, and the world deserves to see it.

Likewise, all of San Diego deserves to see what artists from all walks of life are doing. Park & ​​Market’s purpose aligns exactly with our mission to create equitable and engaged communities where underserved voices are heard – and that makes us part of a space that gives everyone that access.

For us, Park & ​​Market represents many opportunities. It is both a platform to reach new audiences with our film screenings and Downtown programming and an opportunity to connect new underrepresented voices in film with UC San Diego resources.

Park & ​​Market’s location one block a short walk from the Blue Line Trolley connecting Torrey Pines Mesa to the US-Mexico border is key to reaching these new audiences. It allows residents of San Diego and Tijuana, especially young film students in our youth programs, to access our theater and classrooms via public transportation. The building’s ideal location, next to many residential buildings, provides a new walkable art and entertainment option for downtown residents, who can grab a meal at the downstairs bistro before heading upstairs. upstairs for an independent film.

On the other side of that equation, Park & ​​Market is a place that fosters community, collaboration, and connection. Students in our youth program classrooms can walk around and view, in the same building, a gallery featuring local art installations from the Stuart Collection, public sculptures commissioned by UC San Diego. They can catch performances by Mainly Mozart, the San Diego Symphony Orchestra and the San Diego Opera. They can meet people they may never have met at these events and many more who will be staged in the flexible indoor and outdoor space offered by Park & ​​Market. Above all, access to these resources can inspire them and help them envision their future as creators and engaged citizens in our region.

As I have said many times before, I believe that art and cinema connect us to our common humanity. The experience of seeing independent films in a state-of-the-art, easily accessible community space is a joyful way for us to heal from the pandemic and become more connected to our community in San Diego and the world. When these experiences take place in a building like Park & ​​Market, which is purpose built on a foundation of inclusivity, equity and access, the power of art is magnified many times over.

This essay is in the print edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune dated March 23, 2022, with the title, We have a new space to celebrate, teach cinema