This is a simple one — the answer is 1998. But Cinematheque’s origins actually predate its official start. The program grew out of efforts by faculty and students to share international and art films. “It began as a series of one-off films funded by the Anonymous Fund,” says Lea Jacobs, now a professor emerita. “David Bordwell, Ben Brewster, or I would simply apply to show some films, and then we would run them, keeping them open to the public and to campus.” But in 1998, Cinematheque became a more formal thing, with screenings in 4070 Vilas Hall and a grad student employee. Instead of individual films, Cinematheque began showing multiple films on different themes. One early festival offered a collection of Andy Warhol films, including Kiss, Bike Boy, The Chelsea Girls, and The Velvet Underground Featuring Nico. Altogether, that added up to about seven hours of Warhol, which is a lot, even if you get the large popcorn. Now, 24 years later, Cinematheque is still going strong and still showing films at Vilas Hall. The 2021–22 series included the Age of Cage (Nicholas Cage movies), A Piece of Vietnam (Vietnam War–era films), These Fists Break Bricks (kung fu movies), and New from Japan and India (which kind of explains itself). Grab a seat and pop open a box of Goobers: it’s time for a show!
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