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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Cornell Cinema is a student-run operation

Cornell+Cinema+is+a+student-run+movie+theater+on+Cornells+campus%2C+housing+film+screenings+and+special+events+throughout+the+year.%0A
Lucia Iandolo
Cornell Cinema is a student-run movie theater on Cornell’s campus, housing film screenings and special events throughout the year.

Next to Cornell’s famous slope, there is a secretive theater hidden in the basement of Willard Straight Hall. With its freshly popped popcorn and historic space, this two-story theater is like traveling into the past. Audiences can experience contemporary and classic titles from around the globe all at Cornell Cinema.

Cornell Cinema was founded in 1970 and began as a student-run, university film society. Students continue to help run the theater today, with more than 25 students helping with the projection system, managing event logistics for the film screenings along with special events. These students are of different backgrounds, class years and disciplines, but in their mission statement located on their official website, they state how they have considered their time at the theater a formative part of their college years.

“We work to expand access to and appreciation of the art of film and believe in the power of cinema to advance understanding, foster community, and inspire new ways of seeing the world,” Molly Ryan, director of Cornell Cinema, said via email.

She added how they show films about five times a week, totaling to more than 75 films a semester. They are one of the only places in the region where people can experience film on film. Therefore, they try to showcase a range of film formats including 35mm, 16mm and 3D.

Since it’s an educational institution, they often collaborate with partners, filmmakers and scholars across the campus to host discussions. Ryan said that through these discussions, they explore relevant historical, political or artistic questions their films raise.

Over the next month in April, audiences can experience some of the discussions from the filmmakers themselves. Some of these include Aviva Kempner on April 10 for their film “A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings,” a Zoom call with Shaunak Sen on April 15 for “All That Breathes” and Joe Peller and Angel Ellis for “Bad Press” on April 23. Cornell Cinemas website usually contains the screening of the film, a short description and whether the director will be visiting for a Q&A. 

“We aim to prioritize independent and international films that might not otherwise make it to Ithaca and to choose films that resonate with conversations happening across campus and in our local communities,” Ryan said.

Cornell Cinema is also a “second-run” theater, so someone can also experience films that were released from several months ago that they might have missed during their first run. The films screening in the following weeks at the theater that are going on their second run are “Poor Things,” “Saltburn” and “The Zone of Interest.”

For the students who may go once or twice a semester, ticket prices cost $8 for students. There are also options for students to get discounted tickets for special events with an annual pass for $30.

Mitch McCabe, assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies, said that they have much appreciation for the theater and that their first experience at the theater was an interactive performance by filmmaker Zia Anger.

“It was nearly sold out, with a super involved audience,” McCabe said. “A great night and intro to Ithaca.”

In Fall 2021, McCabe also had the chance to moderate a screening of “North by Current.” This experimental documentary was directed by McCabe’s friend and filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax. McCabe said that although there were still COVID-19 surges going on around this time, Minax attended the screening on Zoom and got some insightful questions from the audience, particularly from other trans artists.

In addition to enjoying her role as director, Ryan said she also finds lots of enjoyment through the films that are shown at the space. 

“It’s pretty neat to have a job that lets you watch movies all the time, but I love that I get to constantly learn new things both through the many films I watch and through the amazing people I get to collaborate with,” Ryan said.

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Nathan Glasser, Videographer
Lucia Iandolo, Videographer
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