The Whitney Humanities Center filled to the brim with cinephiles Friday night in a casual yet classy opening gala for the center’s new series of 35mm films, “The Cinema at Whitney.”

Nearly 300 film enthusiasts attended the first feature of the weekly movie screening series, Federico Fellini’s classic Italian film “8 1/2.” Student organizers designed the series in hopes of promoting a University-wide forum to discuss and appreciate films.

Miye Bromberg ’06, the series’ undergraduate chair, said she hopes the large turnout continues throughout the year.

“We couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout, ” she said in an e-mail. “A good mix of students, staff, faculty and community members. It was also gratifying to see so many of the audience members in white — our homage to 8 1/2’s costuming motif.”

The humanities center’s auditorium only seats 260 people, so latecomers made themselves comfortable on the floors and aisles, some even standing throughout the night.

“The dedication of these cinephiles is particularly commendable,” Bromberg said. “Though a wonderful film, ‘8 1/2’ is not a short one.”

Before the feature presentation rolled, the audience was treated to a 1933 Mickey Mouse short film by Walt Disney. The series’s directors, Alice Lovejoy GRD ’10, Jeremi Szaniawski GRD ’10 and Bromberg, then introduced the director of the Whitney Humanities Center, Maria Rosa Menocal.

Menocal thanked the “vision, generosity, and support” of the Yale film community for bringing 35mm back to New Haven. She said she hopes the Whitney series will “advance film culture” and provide free cinematic pleasure not only for those affiliated with Yale but also for the entire New Haven community.

“The film is one thing, but the audience is what matters most,” Menocal said.

Fellini’s film also served to introduce a new faculty member, Millicent Marcus, who is an expert on Italian film. Marcus delivered a brief introduction to the 1963 Italian movie and called it “metacinema” — a film that is about filmmaking.

This week, the series will begin its regular schedule for the academic year, presenting two 35mm feature-films on Fridays at 7:30 and 10 p.m.

The weekly screenings will be selected as “double features” pertaining to a theme that speaks broadly to the human condition. All of this year’s films were carefully chosen by the organizers in hopes of offering selections from a wide variety of genres.

This Friday’s double feature will be Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “After Life” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Dead Man.”

“It’s nice to know that there are so many people who like movies as much as we do,” Bromberg said.

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