SANTA ANA, Calif. — The Frida Cinema is asking for the community's help to offset the cost of a new projector system and fund events in the new year.

What You Need To Know

  • The Frida Cinema is asking for donations after one of the theater's two working movie projectors broke earlier this month

  • The cost of a new movie project is $65,000

  • The sudden and unexpected large expenditure has forced the Frida Cinema to consider cutting programming and events for the upcoming year

Earlier this month, one of only two of the downtown Santa Ana nonprofit cinema's movie projectors blew out halfway through the screening of "C'mon C'mon," a black and white film starring Joaquin Phoenix.

"The screen turned yellow," said Logan Crow, the executive director of The Frida Cinema, to Spectrum News. One of the theater managers informed him of the news. "We knew it was getting old, and it might have been time for a replacement."

But what Crow didn't expect was the seriousness of the problem.

Crow called Sony about the cost to fix the arthouse's Sony SRXR515 projection system, which has been used to present hundreds of independent and community films since the theater first opened its doors in 2014. Crow also brought in technicians who specialize in fixing this type of equipment to assess the issue.

Both told him the bad news.

"A very expensive part died and the cost of which would run in the tens of thousands of dollars," said Crow. "The cost to fix it was about the same price of getting a new one. Their advice was to buy a new projection system."

Crow said that the cost for a new one is $65,000.

Usually, the Frida Cinema would create a month-long fundraising campaign to raise money for a replacement. But already trying to catch up with lost revenue due to the pandemic, the arthouse dipped into their reserves to immediately buy a new one.

"A cinema without a projector is like a restaurant without a grill," said Crow. "Without this projector, we're not a movie theater."

The unexpected significant expenditure has put a wrench in the Frida Cinema's programming plans and events for 2022, just as they rebound from the economic toll caused by the pandemic.

The Frida Cinema in downtown Santa Ana is considered one of Orange County's few arthouse movie theaters playing independent, international, LGBTQ, educational and community films. 

Like most movie theaters during the coronavirus pandemic, the Frida Cinema was financially impacted. 

Except for drive-in movie pop-ups, the theater was mostly closed for 15 months. According to federal records, the nonprofit theater had to pull out two paycheck protection program loans totaling $97,525.

Crow said that when the nonprofit theater finally reopened in May, attendance dipped by about 40% from pre-COVID levels and overall revenue was down due to lack of concession sales.

Things have been looking up in recent months. As people got comfortable getting out of their houses and doing activities, attendance at the Frida Theater picked up. The theater also hired new staff. 

Crow said they were excited about planning new programming and community events for the upcoming year. 

Then one of their only two movie projectors broke. 

The money spent on the new movie projector forces them to cut programming, events and showtimes planned in the new year.

"That's why I've said this couldn't have happened in the worst time," he said. "It's a huge hit on us and cut our momentum."

Crow is asking the public for monetary donations to help offset the cost of the new 4K Barco movie system, "so we can try to revive programs for 2022."

The Frida Cinema is unique because it's more than just a movie theater in Santa Ana. It's a community space, Crow said. 

"We often said that we read every single request from our customers and find ways to do it," said Crow. "There's nothing like this experience, having your favorite snack and watching a movie in this shared space, laughing and then talking and chatting about it in the lobby. Our goal has always been to advance culture and arts in the community through film."

People interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Frida Cinema can visit here.