Bruce Baillie

San Francisco Cinematheque was founded by a group of young, idealistic filmmakers that included Bruce Baillie and Chick Strand. As an informal showcase for films made by Bay Area artists, SF Cinematheque was then, and remains today, a pioneer in the presentation of independent film as a unique art form.

Canyon Cinema, established as a not-for-profit film distributor, joined with Cinematheque to develop a more extensive exhibition program. Canyon’s newly formed collection of experimental films and its administrative base enabled Cinematheque to expand the scope of its exhibition program. Films were shown in more established host locations, such as Glide Fellowship Hall, Intersection for the Arts, Mills College in Oakland and Sonoma State University.

San Francisco Cinematheque began its long standing relationship with the San Francisco Art Institute in 1970. This gave Cinematheque a readily accessible space with professional quality film projection, which improved technical capabilities and increased exhibition possibilities at precisely the time when experimental film was coming into the public’s general awareness.

Foundation For Art in Cinema, established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of film art, acted as an umbrella for San Francisco Cinematheque and its newsletter, Cinemanews. The Foundation’s non-profit status made it eligible for government grants and private support. New funding sources allowed for a more active program with paid staff and more generous payments to artists.

In 1982, Steve Anker was hired as program director, and a year later David Gerstein joined as administrative director. Following a major evaluation of its program activities, San Francisco Cinematheque began a long-range campaign that transformed it from a one-dimensional showcase of avant-garde film into a multi-faceted organization that could meet the changing needs of our cultural community. The addition of a third night of screenings (at the New College Gallery and then at Eye Gallery) allowed Cinematheque to incorporate video, performance and installation as a significant portions of its overall schedule.

In 1993, Cinematheque moved to its second home, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Screenings were regularly held twice a week on Sundays at San Francisco Art Institute and Thursdays at the Center for the Arts. Nearing its fiftieth year of screenings, Cinematheque continues to produce roughly 50 programs annually at various venues in San Francisco and participates in numerous co-presentations with other organizations throughout the Bay Area.