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The Cinematheque was created in 1981 as an offshoot of the annual Filmex Los Angeles Film Festival, which ran every year from 1971 to 1983. After five years of fundraising and planning, the Cinematheque launched its first series of screenings in 1987. It presents festivals and retrospectives that screen the best of worldwide cinema, video, and television from the past and present, ranging from the classics to the outer frontiers of the art form. In addition to presenting and celebrating all aspects of the moving picture on the big screen, the Cinematheque also provides a forum where film lovers and students can hear the world's leading filmmakers, actors, writers, editors, cinematographers, and others discussing their craft.
The Cinematheque's theaters
Between 1987 and 1998, the Cinematheque presented its programs at a variety of venues, including the Directors Guild of America theater and the Raleigh Studios complex in Hollywood. In December 1998, it opened its own permanent home at the Egyptian in Hollywood, and in 2004 added a second theater, the Aero, in Santa Monica. It now presents festivals, retrospectives, and assorted programs at these two theaters.
Grauman's Egyptian Theatre is the Hollywood movie palace built in 1922 by showman Sid Grauman (four years prior to opening his Chinese Theatre). It was the location of Hollywood's first-ever movie premiere in 1922. In 1998, the American Cinematheque completed a major $12.8 million renovation that restored the theater's exterior to its original form, and added new film, video, and audio technology.
Among the Cinematheque's many annual festivals, it has become well known for presenting the Mods & Rockers Festival of rock-culture films first presented in 1999. The 2006 festival was a six-week retrospective the Los Angeles Times noted was the largest-ever festival of rock-music films presented in the USA.
In addition to its year-round programs, the organization presents the prestigious American Cinematheque Award annually to a filmmaker in recognition of contributions to the art form. In the 20 years since the award's inception, many major filmmakers have been honored, including directors such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and Rob Reiner, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and actors including Eddie Murphy, Bette Midler, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, and Jodie Foster.
American Cinematheque's distribution arm was set up in 1999 as Vitagraph Films.
Participation by industry leaders
The organization is governed by a board of directors and a board of trustees. The two boards include many prominent leaders in the entertainment industry, including directors and producers such as Sydney Pollack, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Francis Coppola, William Friedkin, Melvin Van Peebles, Brian Grazer, Joe Dante, Paula Wagner, and Steve Tisch. Other prominent board members include actors Candice Bergen and Goldie Hawn; studio chief Mike Medavoy; journalist Peter Bart (editor in chief of Variety); and talent agent Rick Nicita (co-chairman of Creative Artists Agency).