History of the Museum’s Film Series

The Cleveland Museum of Art possesses one of the oldest museum film programs in the United States. Frances Bolton purchased the first film projector in 1935 and the museum showed films and hosted some prominent visiting filmmakers (e.g., Maya Deren) in an auditorium located in what later became part of the Asian galleries.

Starting in the early 1970s, the museum presented free screenings of 16mm films in Gartner Auditorium. Films at that time ranged from 1930s American comedies (W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, et al.) and other international classics to popular recent English-language period pieces (The Go-Between) to cutting-edge new movies (1970s German films by Wenders, Herzog, and Fassbinder).

The film program is a major year-long presence that attracts thousands of people to the museum. Since July 1986, the museum has presented at least two different feature films every week (on Wednesday nights, Fridays nights, or Sunday afternoons), and numerous special events are peppered throughout the year. With about 90 different movies shown annually, our film program is one of the most adventurous and respected museum film programs in the U.S.