Italian Film Festival back in person with movies at historic La Paloma Theatre

The San Diego Italian Film Festival returns to the La Paloma Theatre (right).
La Paloma Theatre
(Karen Billing)

San Diego Italian Film Festival resumes in-person movies at historic 1928 La Paloma Theatre with vaulted ceilings in downtown Encinitas


The San Diego Italian Film Festival is back with in-person screenings at the historic La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas. The first live screening features the comedy “Figli” (Kidz), directed by Giuseppe Bonito and starring Paola Cortellesi and Valerio Mastandrea at 7 p.m. Sept. 30.

The festival screens award-winning Italian films with English subtitles. Shows include a pre-screening introduction by the festival’s artistic director, Antonio Iannotta, or a guest expert, who will discuss the film’s context and aspects of the making of the film.

A regular schedule of monthly Italian movies at La Paloma is slated to start in January.

The 93-year-old theater, with its high-vaulted ceilings and ornate fixtures, has been home to the San Diego Italian Film Festival since 2012 when the festival expanded from its downtown venue to offer monthly movies for North County audiences.

La Paloma Theatre, built in Spanish Colonial Revival style, opened in February 1928 with the film “The Cohens And Kellys in Paris.” Among the gala event’s attendees was Hollywood star Mary Pickford. The theater has been screening movies almost continuously since then and survived the shutdown from the pandemic.

La Paloma (The Dove) was designed for live acts and a full orchestra and a pipe organ during the silent movie era. It was one of the first theaters to start showing “talking movies.”

The theater has been visited by Hollywood stars, including Desi Arnaz, Bing Crosby and Pat O’Brien.

The theatre’s president, Allen Largent, who grew up in Encinitas, has run La Paloma since 1992 and had worked there as a teenager. As one of Encinitas’ oldest cultural venues, the theater has hosted musicians, poets, film festivals and community groups along with movies.

The San Diego Italian Film Festival’s 15th edition of feStivale is also returning to live screenings Oct. 7 - 31 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. The theme is “Resilience.”

The theater is at 471 S. Coast Highway. Tickets are $12; $8 for members.
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