Florida Theatre Promotes Civic Engagement in Jacksonville

Photo by Cristina Danielle O'Connor


The brisk fall air drifted through the streets below the sparkling Florida Theatre marquee before the theatre’s Civic Cinema debut. Patrons gathered in line after work, conversing about the state of relations between politics and the media ahead of the first movie of the series, All the President’s Men, with a panel discussion to follow. Florida Theatre President, Numa Saisselin, opened the evening with a brief speech thanking sponsor Community First Credit Union for the season, and Times Union Media and AVL Productions for making the night possible. The audience settled into their seats with popcorn and drinks as the lights dimmed. When the projector lit up the screen, even the subtlest sounds were silenced throughout an engaged audience.

After asked why civic engagement with experts and strangers is important at this time in American history, Saisselin gave two reasons. “One, we need to do a better job of talking and listening to each other, not just talking AT each other. Talking heads on TV reciting pre-written talking points is not dialogue. Two, it never hurts to hear from an expert who lives with an issue day in and day out. Your own opinion might get changed.”

“Talking heads on TV reciting pre-written talking points is not dialogue.”

Florida Theatre, Civic Cinema, All the Presidents Men, Photo by Cristina Danielle O'Connor
Photo by Cristina Danielle O’Connor

The end of the film prompted the start of the anxiously waited for discussion with experts Mary Kelli Palka of The Florida Times-Union, Anne Schindler of First Coast News, Tim Gibbons of the Jacksonville Business Journal, and Nate Monroe, who covers government for The Florida-Times Union. Reactions spread across the audience with raised hands and chatter as the panel discussed the difference between journalism then and now and revealed the state between politics and the media on a local level.

The night went by too fast, as some questions were left unanswered. Despite this, nothing was lost by the minds of the audience, only gained. As Saisselin said with his last words of the night, events like this and the great turnout that resulted give “hope for the future.”

The remaining free presentations are: February 6, 2018: Do the Right Thing, followed by a panel discussion on the state of race relations in Jacksonville; April 12, 2018: Erin Brockovich, followed by a panel discussion on Jacksonville and the environment; and September 19, 2018: Philadelphia, followed by a discussion on the state of LGBTQ rights and relations in Jacksonville.

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