I love going to the cinema at storied local theaters such as the Lido Theater in Newport Beach. The Lido is small and carries the scent of Hollywood’s local beginnings.

It also smells of aged wood and metal and all the popcorn they’ve ever popped, buttered and bagged for eager-eyed moviegoers.

Viewers of Orange Coast College’s short films have been going to the Lido for years now. OCC has showed films at the Newport Beach Film Festival for around 15 years. This year the festival celebrates 20 years of local cinema.

Going to a theater is an event. You get dressed, drive out to the spot showing your film, collect a physical ticket, some popcorn and a drink and settle in a seat with the best angle and distance for your preference, of course. The Lido has a small, cramped balcony that captured the whole theater space pleasantly.

The short films rattled off one after one, leaving their various tastes and cinematographic styles lingering on the mind.

Cutting to it, the films were well produced and fun to watch. They were funny, thoughtful and irreverent, and each shared a vision 10-foot tall displayed for all the audience to see. Sitting in my balcony seat, knees bumping into the wall in front of me, I ate all the popcorn my girlfriend and I “shared,” and enjoyed an afternoon at the cinema.

“I thought they were really cool. I thought that they were pretty well done,” said Jared Lowey, an OCC alumnus who is currently a student Long Beach State for film production.

It’s fun to share the experience of watching a film created by a stranger, with a room full of strangers but to come together sharing moments of laughter or the jerk of a tear from the eyes of the audience. That the films were done by students from OCC made the closeness all the more communal and I felt a sense of pride for the student’s accomplishments.

“I was very impressed by the films. I feel they had a lot of audience participation which shows that they were connecting with the audience,” said Sarah Brandenburg, an OCC alumna currently at UC Irvine completing a double major in business and film production.

Shuffling outside after the festival screening, a crowd of more than 200 emerged from the dark theater to the overcast midday in Newport Beach excited to recount the films we all just watched.

Audience members said the films were “quietly poignant,” and “pulled at my heartstrings.”

As I passed by another audience member she summed up the brightly colored sun-surf-skate film, ”24 Hours,” with “I am really, really from Southern California.” This film took on the story of a group of friends determined to fill a whole day with activity as if it were their last day to live.

Another audience member said the film “Instafame Us,” about online influencers determined to keep their popularity going, was “very entertaining, I like how they used spaces to make settings look large and impressive.”

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