The Plaza Classic Film Festival — which celebrates its 16th year July 20-30, 2023 — was started by the El Paso Community Foundation in 2008 as a special project to bring movies back to the historic Plaza Theatre. The Community Foundation purchased 35mm and then state-of-the-art 2K digital projection equipment (upgraded to 4K in 2018) for the atmospheric theater, which opened in 1930, closed in the early 80s, and was restored for $38 million in 2006 in a joint partnership between the City of El Paso and the Community Foundation.
The first Festival was called The Movies Return to the Plaza Theatre and was the brainchild of EPCF President/CEO Eric Pearson and movie enthusiast Charles Horak. It was a smash hit. More than 25,000 people turned out to watch more than 60 movies at the Plaza Theatre and adjacent Philanthropy Theatre.