New organization is a collaborative nonprofit between San Luis Obispo International Film Festival and the Palm

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival (SLOIFF) is joining forces with the Palm Theatre to establish the SLO Film Center. A collaborative venture, it will showcase new releases, expand the program of independent and retrospective titles, and offer the venue for cultural events such as live music, comedy, and educational endeavors. The center will focus on a year-round slate of programming with daily screenings, events, and special guests, while continuing to be the hub of the annual SLO International Film Festival.   

Located in the heart of San Luis Obispo’s cultural arts district, the SLO Film Center will be operated as a nonprofit. The center will not only strengthen film’s role as a vibrant contributor to the region’s arts community but will also operate as a shared space to engage broader, diverse audiences. SLOIFF is leasing the theater from owners Jim and Patty Dee, who are retiring, and will build on the beloved Palm’s legacy of offering independent and classic films. 

“We believe that this investment will not only enrich the lives of those in our community, but also serve as a lasting legacy for generations to come,” said SLOIFF Executive Director Skye McLennan. “The SLO Film Center is poised to create an unparalleled space where filmmakers, film enthusiasts, general arts supporters, and community members alike can come together to celebrate the magic of storytelling.”


Both the Palm Theatre and the SLO Film Festival have long played key roles in the region. Jim and Patty Dee opened the Palm Theatre in 1988 with two screens, then added a third in 1993, drawing patrons from the entire Central Coast. In 2004, it was the first movie theater in the nation to become solar-powered.

“From the humble beginnings of a local film club called the Cinema Zoo (1973-1979), to the Rainbow Theatre (1979-1989), and the Palm Theatre (1988-present), it has been a pleasure and a wonderful journey presenting great cinema, both foreign and domestic, to San Luis Obispo County,” the Dees said. “We are excited to pass the baton to the capable hands of SLOIFF. The creation of the San Luis Obispo Film Center will continue the tradition of unique, adventurous, and just plain entertaining programming as an integral part of the heart and soul of downtown San Luis Obispo.”

The Film Festival traces its roots to 1993, founded by local attorney Mary A. Harris. Thanks to a special grant from the city of San Luis Obispo and Jim Dee’s involvement, the festival launched with a focus on classic and restored films. Within a few years, it began the George Sidney Independent Film Competition, inviting both long- and short-form narrative, and documentary, filmmakers from around the world to submit their work.

“Having access to a nonprofit film center opens up incredible opportunities for the local community to engage with artists, actors, filmmakers, and poets who are local or passing through our wonderful community,” said actor Josh Brolin, who’s on the SLO Film Festival Advisory Board. “I enthusiastically support the collaborative efforts of the Film Festival Board and the Palm to bring this to life.”

The SLO Film Center will officially launch in July 2024 with no disruption to current programming at the Palm Theatre. For more information about the film center, visit

Feature Image by Daniel Kulaguz / ATN