After modest beginnings in 2009, the Malibu Film Society (MFS) has grown from 14 films per year and two dozen members to more than 80 events each year and well over 300 members. The vast majority of the society’s screenings are first-run movies in contention for Oscars and Golden Globes—including foreign films, documentaries and even animation—frequently before their official release dates. Outside awards season, MFS shows first-run, restored classics and overlooked critically acclaimed films.
Steve Weinberg, an MFS board member whose law firm, Holmes Weinberg, is a sponsor and pro bono legal counsel, explained that MFS originated as a collaboration between MJCS (Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue), The Malibu Times and CommCinema to provide the Malibu community with something unique and untested—a movie experience in a beautiful architectural setting with introductions by the executive director and frequent Q&A guests that include producers, actors, directors and writers of the films.
The all-volunteer, nonprofit society, based at the Malibu Screening Room at MJCS, was originally founded to strengthen Malibu’s sense of community, and it has—attracting upwards of 10,000 reservations/guests per year. Filmgoers have time to socialize both before and after the films and friendships and new introductions result. The events also offer something to do at night in a town not exactly known for nightlife.
MFS is now recognized by all of the major film studios and streaming services because so many voting members of the Academy and guilds live in Malibu and attend the screenings, and because the new digital projection and sound system is the same or better than most commercial theaters.
The society has taken on even more importance after Malibu’s only movie theater closed in 2017. Without MFS, residents would have to drive for miles to watch first-run movies on a big screen.
The local 13-member MFS board and an entire team of cheerful, dedicated volunteers keep MFS going.