Alden Library Exhibit Spotlights Athena Cinema

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When the lights dim in a movie theater, viewers often feel anticipation as they’re drawn into another world to watch a story unfold before their very eyes. The Athena Cinema has provided this experience for the students and residents of Athens for a century.

In celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Athena Cinema, Ohio University Libraries is hosting a commemorative exhibit titled, The Athena Cinema: From Silents to Sci Fi, which will be on display through June 30 on the fourth floor of Alden Library.

The exhibit includes photographs, articles, news clippings, posters and other memorabilia that will entice viewers to immerse themselves into the cinema’s rich history.

In addition, the fourth floor display includes a number of film magazines donated to the libraries in November 2014, which date from the 1930s to the 1960s. These include publications such as: Cinema Arts magazine and The New York Dramatic Mirror magazine from the 1930s, Cinemafantastique magazine from the 1970s and other monographs on film-making.

Alden Library Athena Cinema exhibit, 2015
Issues of “Cinema Arts” from the early 1900s. (Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries)

According to Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian, the magazines, which include colorful visuals such as photographs and illustrations, “…provide a fantastic glimpse into mid-20th century American film history.”

“For students, the magazines provide a fun, interactive way to learn about actors and films that they may have never heard of because they are from so much before their time,” said Intrator. “Other featured actors, such as Gary Cooper or Greta Garbo, are virtually timeless.”

Lorraine Wochna, curator of the exhibit and subject librarian for the School of Film, among other areas, says the exhibit is a celebration of the collaboration between the Athena and the Libraries. The display will share the Libraries’ film collection, which consists of DVDs, screenplays and a film webpage, while showcasing the film-related items in special collections.

“…It is the art house in town,” said Wochna. “It’s held up for 100 years, and the Library has supported film not only by purchasing films from the eclectic array shown at [the] Athena, but from the Athens International Film and Video Festival, as well as other campus partnerships who have utilized the Athena films to educate.”

The Athena Cinema, which was opened in 1915, is considered to be one of the oldest movie theaters in the country. Over the years, the Athena has brought the stories shared through foreign, local and independent films, documentaries, and classic movies to the Athens community. In 2001, the University purchased the theater and began to restore it the following year.

The items in the exhibit were specifically selected because they aid in telling the story of the theater’s background: the history of the films screened and events hosted; the University’s adaptation of the cinema as a classroom space and as a venue for campus events.

Republished with permission from Ohio University Libraries.