Blockbusters are abound this summer, filling multiplexes around El Paso. Those streaming accounts and Redox rentals are always a viable source of film fun too, but we here at What’s Up know that some of you readers are into a big-screen experience based more on craft than on blowing up buildings.

We’ve outlined a few fun ways to break away from the standard movie-going traditions and venture into something more unique and intimate.

1. The Film Salon

A long-time El Paso staple, The Film Salon series has been featuring movies followed by discussions at Trinity-First United Methodist Church since 2002. Founder Charles Horak recently announced that the Salon has partnered with Alamo Drafthouse in order to expand the series, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve abandoned the community they worked so hard to build up.

“All of our presentations have begun with a short introduction and ended with a discussion,” said Horak. “It was my hope over 14 years ago that attendees of our screening would not only enjoy an evening out, but cultivate a deeper understanding of the cinema and an interest in exploring further on their own.”

The schedule is typically curated in 4-6 month blocks and is currently celebrating the works of Humphrey Bogart and writer/director John Huston.

Meeting the first Saturday of every month at 7 p.m., the Salon’s tradition will continue, but will now be accompanied by the Drafthouse’s state-of-the-art projection, extremely comfortable seats and food and beverage service.

“I think it’s a win-win and am excited to see where this relationship goes,” Horak said about the new partnership. “Alamo has already proven in its first few months to be extremely supportive of our community. They have a brand that prides itself on a fanatical devotion to cinema of all kinds and a focus on providing the best viewing experience to audiences.

“It’s really a perfect fit for us and I can’t imagine a better partner or venue for The Film Salon.”

So if you’re looking to jump in to a community of cinephiles, a Film Salon movie screening might be the perfect opportunity for you.

“One of my favorite things to see each month is the gathering of members out on the sidewalk, still discussing the film they just saw,” Horak said. “I think we’re ready to add some new members to the family, and I’m excited to share some great cinema with new faces and friends.”

More info:

2. Sunset Film Society

Housed in the beautiful International Museum of Art on Montana and hosting free movie screenings every Saturday at 2 p.m. is the The Sunset Film Society. Sunset Film is the brainchild of Jay Duncan, a film lover whose passion runs so deep that he helped to save the Plaza Theatre from being torn down.

“Film at large serves a community by broadening the horizons of one’s own experiences,” Duncan said. “With a good story and well-defined characters, both of which are missing in most of today’s cinema, a person can travel to another time or place.”

While the well-made films of the past can transport the viewer to another time or place, Duncan is dedicated to the idea of film as a fulcrum of community.

“A film society, such as the Sunset Film Society, endeavors to bring well-regarded classics and lesser-known quality films to the public’s attention. A two-way discussion is always encouraged, as various people bring different observations to the table; thus deepening the appreciation of the work.

Having a tight-knit community in place and a vast array of films at his disposal, Jay Duncan sees a bright future for his film community.

“I hope the future of the Sunset Film Society continues to grow,” said Duncan. “My intent is to eventually have a membership fee and official membership cards which will enable the person to partake in discounted SFS merchandise, ticket prices to current showings in area theaters and special showings unannounced to the general public.”

More info:

3. Cineboom

Nestled in the 5 Points area on the corner of Wyoming and Magnolia is the newest film society: Cineboom. Co-founder Adriana Montenegro recounts its rise as incredibly organic.

“I used to work at Half Price Books in Austin, Texas, so I have a pretty large film collection of Criterion, foreign and American cult films,” Montenegro said. “When I moved back to El Paso, I originally wanted to project films on the roof of a hotel Downtown, but due to safety hazards, I decided against it.

“I then asked Hector Octavio Saenz about allowing me to screen them at Boomtown,” she continued. “We decided to screen films for free every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. Hector came up with the name ‘Cineboom,’ which I think fits perfectly.”

The outdoor screenings take place in the patio of Saenz’s bar, Boomtown. Also new is the monthly Full Moon Horror Series – which screens movies during an actual full moon. Saenz and Montenegro plan to keep expanding their project.

“I also want to add a ‘Weird Wednesday’ screening as well as a night that is specifically American underground films,” said Montenegro. “Cineboom is also planning to partner with a non-profit to bring more films and educational camps and training for El Paso grades K-12.”

A tasty beverage in the open air is indeed enjoyable for many film buffs, but Cineboom is also a source of pride for its founder.

“I not only view this as an artistic success, but also find it extremely fulfilling to know that these free screenings are touching people,” Montenegro said. “I do think El Paso needs a place where people can come together to be entertained, grow and experience something new, and I feel like Cineboom has become that place.”

More info: