Film, like photography, is one of the characteristic art forms of the Twentieth Century. It is also quintessentially American as most of its invention, both technical and artistic, originated in this country. Therefore, it is natural that a museum, such as the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, which places an emphasis on modern American art, would consider the exhibition of film as inherent in its overall mission. With this goal in mind, the original plans for the Sheldon Gallery, opened in 1964, included a fully equipped projection booth and auditorium, both designed for the optimum in film exhibition. However, film exhibition was limited until 1973 when the Gallery began a full-time program under the name of the Sheldon Film Theater.
In 1990, Mary Riepma Ross, one of the Theater's most ardent and long-time supporters and a resident of New York City, established a $3.5 million irrevocable trust at the University Foundation for the purpose of building and endowing "The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center." This gift made it possible for the Media Center to greatly enhance and expand its programming and services in several important directions. The new film center houses two state-of-the-art auditoriums, both designated for film and video screenings, as well as offices for its staff, a research library, and a film and video archive. Two theaters permit a greater accommodation of experimental film and video, of historically significant works, and films of a more mainstream appeal as well. The center's library and archive facilitate our efforts in the areas of the Theater's outreach and educational aspects. In the interim, until the new center was completed, the Sheldon Film Theater was renamed, as recognition of Mrs. Ross' beneficent gift, in her honor. Construction was scheduled to begin in June, 2001 and the new theater opened in January, 2003.
American independent cinema, one of the most vital aspects of this country's film production, is the main emphasis of the Ross Media Center's film exhibition program. Included are the finest in current independently produced American feature and short films--documentaries and narratives, comedies and dramas, live action and animation; all made with purpose, passion, and commitment to ideas. Films from every region of the United States are included: films about politics and social justice; films about history told by those who lived and shaped it; and personal films in which people intimately share their lives. However, the program is not limited to this area.
Hollywood industry productions, not included in local commercial theaters' repertoires, are programmed. Contemporary foreign films, judged to be among the best available, are screened to provide our audience with a comparison to the work done in this country. Classic American and foreign works are included to illustrate the history and evolution of the art of cinema. Documentaries which examine a wide variety of issues of concern are presented to a knowledgeable and questioning public. Video has emerged as an important art form in recent years and is included as well. Retrospectives on directors, filmmakers, actors and actresses, countries, genres, and themes are presented to enhance our audience's knowledge and appreciation of the arts of cinema and video.
The Friends of the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, which provides financial support for both programming and the acquisition of equipment, was begun in 1981 and functions as a community-oriented support group for the program. Individual and corporate members pay annual dues which are used to fund special projects and the Theater's general operating budget. The organization has a membership numbering over 800.
The Theater is extensively patronized by members of the general public, providing a major source of revenue for the program, and has garnered a national reputation as being one of the best of its kind in this country. We strive to offer a well-rounded program of high quality which is a credit to the University and the community of Lincoln.
Mary Riepma Ross and Danny Lee Ladely shared a dream that has come true! That dream envisioned a media arts center, dedicated to the art of the moving image that would serve the University, this community, the state, and the region. Construction on that dream is completed, resulting in one of the finest and most up-to-date facilities of its kind in the nation, as evidenced by the unique and appealing building that is now located at 313 N. 13th Street.
Acknowledging the diversity of activities that will take place in this new facility (It is much more than just a movie theater.), before construction was completed, the Board of Regents approved a new name for the new Mary Riepma Ross Film Theater. It is now called the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, named in honor of its generous benefactor.
That extraordinary building is also home to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Van Brunt Visitors Center, named for UNL alumni Irene and Winslow Van Brunt. Located at the gateway to the city campus, the new UNL Van Brunt Visitors Center offers resources and information for visitors to the UNL campus, and is utilized extensively for recruiting new students by the UNL Office of Admissions, which has offices and staff located in the building.
Offices, classroom laboratories, equipment storage space, and editing suites, all belonging to the Film and New Media program, are located on the second floor of the new building. Film and New Media, under the auspices of the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, teaches students the skills needed to pursue careers in the film and television industries.
The new media arts center features two screens, state-of-the-art technology, a research library and film storage archive, offices, and a concessions stand. In it, we are able to show everything from silent movies to the most recent technologies, the new electronic (digital) cinema, and everything in between.
It is the first theater in this area, and the first university in the world, to be equipped with one of the new Barco D-Cine DP-40 projectors, which utilizes the state-of-the-art Texas Instrument's DLP™ Cinema technology exclusively approved by Hollywood for feature film display, and is the first to have been selected by THX for certification under its program for Digital Cinema products. We also have equipped our second theater with a Barco SLM G5 DLP™ projector thus ensuring high-quality digital projection in both houses.
Thanks to a generous donation by Dolby Laboratories, Inc., both theaters are equipped with Dolby Digital Surround EX, arguably the best and most up-to-date stereo digital sound system available.
There are two theaters. The Joseph H. Cooper Theater, seating 250, features a comprehensive repertoire of currently released American Independent Film and films from aboard, seven days a week, 3 shows nightly, with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. It is so named in recognition of a generous donation to the University for this New Facility by the Cooper Foundation.
The other theater, seating 105, is used for a variety of purposes. In it we program more esoteric fare, significant works that deserve to be screened but that don't attract larger audiences: documentaries, experimental film and video, the classics.
It is also used extensively by other organizations for showing films, such as the University Program Council, a volunteer student organization designed to address the co-curricular, social, recreational, cultural, and educational needs of the campus, and most importantly, by UNL's Film Studies and Film and New Media programs.
UNL's Film Studies program is designed for undergraduates planning to go on to a career within the film industry or its allied critical/archival disciplines, or to graduate study in film history, theory, criticism and production. The program provides a strong background in understanding the many ways in which the moving image (both on film and in television) helps to shape the contours of our lives. The Film Studies Major and Minor are interdisciplinary programs with courses in English, art, broadcasting, philosophy, theatre arts, and music which focus directly or implicitly on cinema. These programs are designed for students who wish to ultimately work in film production or academic film studies, and also for students who wish to understand film better as an art form, as popular culture, and as a major medium of communication.
Both theaters feature state-of-the-art presentations of sight and sound and comfort. Stadium seating ensures excellent sight lines from any of the seats in the theaters. Special acoustical wall panels augment the excellent sound system and specially designed fabric air ducts keep the temperature levels in the theaters perfect with only a whisper.
Both auditoria are also used during the daytimes for classrooms.
In this new facility, there is an archival quality film/video storage room, which is used to house our burgeoning collection of films and videos of around 2,000 titles, including the UNL Film Studies collection, the Jerry Jensen Cinema 16 Collection, and the Foster/Dixon Collection. There is a research library for film students and scholars as well as offices and work space for the Media Center's staff.
Finally, perhaps the most controversial aspect of this new facility, we now have a concession stand that sells popcorn! And it is popcorn grown and supplied by Preferred Popcorn located in the Platte River Valley of central Nebraska. Also, coffee, sodas, mineral water, healthy snacks, and candy. Everything necessary for a complete motion picture entertainment experience!
Now offering concessions, two screens, and state-of-the-art sound and projection, the new Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center is one of the finest venues for independent film in the country. The new Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center continues to greatly enhance the old Mary Riepma Ross Film Theater's well-deserved reputation for showing the world's best films with the highest quality presentation possible. Take advantage of this Lincoln treasure and see the films the rest of the country is talking about.