SAN DIEGO – Thursday was opening night for the 2020 San Diego International Film Festival, reimagined as a drive-in and virtual experience for moviegoers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We really had to reimagine everything about the festival,” said Tonya Mantooth, CEO and artistic director of the festival. “What we knew was that we wanted to create something where people still have a chance to come together and be able to enjoy film but do it in a way that’s safe.”
In its 19th year, organizers decided rather than canceling the festival, they wanted to showcase a different experience to some of the city’s top film critics. To do that, they’ve fashioned a drive-in theater in the parking lot of Westfield UTC in La Jolla.
The festival also offers three virtual theaters to stream movies, panels and filmmaker interviews online, Mantooth said.
This year’s lineup includes 114 total films being brought to life on the big screen. Of those, 24 are narrative competition films, 15 are documentaries and there are 75 short films.
“We knew we wanted to do it in a way that everybody was socially distanced and could still come out and have a good time,” Mantooth said.
Moviegoers attending opening night said it couldn’t have been a more perfect evening for the festival to begin.
“You look at everybody here and they’re happy and their outside and the weather is really cooperating,” Drew Schlosberg said. “It’s a gorgeous evening out here and how do you beat this?”
“It’s already the vibe, it’s just really nice,” Jessica Shaanan said. “Great, fun energy.”
The festival runs through Sunday. Tickets still are available for the next three nights of movies.
More information is available online at sdfilmfest.com.