In response to a petition circulated by students this February, The Whitney Humanities Center has agreed to fund regular screenings of 35mm films, petition organizers announced at the end of last week.

The new program, called “The Cinema at the Whitney,” will provide for two free Friday screenings each week at the Whitney auditorium, said Jeremi Szaniawski GRD ’10, a film studies graduate student and one of the program’s organizers. One of the Cinema’s principal organizers, Miye Goldberg ’05, estimated that the two weekly screenings, as well as programming to run in conjunction with specific Whitney events, would likely cost around $30,000 a year. She added that the Whitney funding is intended to be temporary, and organizers are already looking for alumni sponsors to create a permanent endowment for the cinema.

“It’s a very nice venue, it’s free, and the selection will be done with regards to the wishes of not only the students on staff but those in the audience as well,” Szaniawski said. “We want to keep a reasonable popular appeal without going into Blockbuster.”

Although the petition and subsequent planning were largely spearheaded by a small group of students, including Szaniawski, the support of Maria Rosa Menocal, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese and the director of the humanities center, was instrumental in establishing the program, students involved said.

“Funding for the Cinema comes directly out of the Whitney Humanities Center budget, as overseen by professor Menocal,” Goldberg wrote in an e-mail. “The decision to have the WHC support us, and generously, was entirely her own.”

Goldberg said the Cinema expects to support existing Whitney programming by, for example, running a festival of films that complements the Directed Studies curriculum.

Programming for the Cinema will be set by a group of students, Alice Lovejoy GRD ’10 said, and discussions on the film’s selections — which will be decided upon in upcoming weeks — are open to any students interested in participating in the cinema.

“We want to set a wish list of films we want to see and then we need to see whether they’re available,” said Lovejoy, who had been involved in the initial petition. “I hope we show some popular Hollywood cinema, some foreign films, American independent cinema … I’m hoping what our programming really does is represent the range and depth of what film is as an artistic medium.”

Because the Cinema has a committed source of funding, as well as a staff of several graduate students who will be at Yale for longer than four years, the Cinema will be able to help support many of Yale’s existing student film organizations, Goldberg said.

“I’d like to see the Cinema parlay its stability into greater visibility for film culture at Yale in general, and that definitely means collaborating with the other film groups,” she said.

Purva Amar ’05, an organizer of Yale Women in Film, said she is excited about the opportunities provided by the new 35mm program, and, although she herself will graduate this semester, she said she hopes future YWF leaders will look into collaboration with the Cinema by perhaps using 35mm film at the YWF annual film festival.

The founding of the Cinema also, she said, signifies an increasing commitment to film at Yale.

“This year the film department, and just people outside of the film department, have taken more of an interest,” Amar said. “I think this year has been really good for film at Yale.”

Menocal is travelling and could not be reached for comment.

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