This article was written by John Ewing, Cinematheque Director at Cleveland Institute of Art, and republished with their permission.
Did you ever wonder what films the Cinematheque showed before you started attending our screenings? If so, the answer is now only a few mouse clicks away. In September, the Cleveland Public Library added old Cinematheque calendars to its online Digital Gallery, and anyone with internet access can peruse them. There’s a direct link to the collection on the home page of our website, cia.edu/cinematheque.
This ambitious undertaking—to archive the entire backlog of Cinematheque print schedules—was initiated three and a half years ago by CPL librarian Zachary Hay. Hay, a Cinematheque fan and regular attendee, shepherded the project to its September debut on the CPL website, and he continues to oversee it, as the work is ongoing.
So far, only the first batch of old Cinematheque print schedules has been posted—34 separate publications spanning August 1986 through November-December 1992. New batches of schedules will be added as they are processed.
You may wonder why it takes so long. Well, take a look and you’ll get your answer. CPL is not just scanning the paper pages of each Cinematheque calendar and posting them as PDFs. It is also creating a searchable transcript of the text within each brochure, writing a summary description of each calendar’s contents, including an overview and brief history of the Cinematheque, and adding a lot of other technical information that would make my head spin if I had to do it.
The calendars from 1986 through 1992 are fascinating to revisit because the Cinematheque was then experimenting with different formats, designs, and publication intervals. The very first calendar covers only one month (August 1986), but three calendars later, they begin to span three months—a season of the year. In September of 1989, we finally settled into the two-month time frame that has been a constant ever since.
Some schedules are four 8½” x 11” pages, others the equivalent of eight (as now), still others six (!). From the fall of 1987 through the summer of 1988, we used colored ink, but soon returned to simple, elegant black-on-white. CPL’s Digital Gallery also immortalizes one of our most egregious publication gaffes—the omission of a cover photo in the Summer 1988 edition (somehow the printer lost it), leaving a large gap of white space between the top image and the images and text below. (To be honest, no one except me and our designer, Gerald Karlovec, knew that anything was missing.) That was also the only calendar published on newsprint.
Speaking of calendar covers, one can also see how those varied in the early years—alternating between my crude clip-art collages and Gerald Karlovec’s striking black-and-white designs that utilized cutouts, photocopies, multiple images, textures, patterns, and rubber stamp art. One can also see the evolution of the Cinematheque’s clapboard logo (a Karlovec creation) and even eyeball a previous logo designed by John Cupit, then a stellar Industrial Design student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, now a successful product designer in Oregon. Cupit’s logo was very clean and clever, evoking not only the letter “C” (for Cleveland Cinematheque) but also looking like a person in a theater seat facing a movie screen (with a loudspeaker on their left). Take a look at it online; it’s really quite brilliant. But we eventually found it a bit clunky and unwieldy for some of the applications we required.
The one thing you won’t find in the first batch of Cinematheque calendars in CPL’s Digital Gallery is my bi-monthly CinemaTalk column (like this one). That did not start appearing until January-February 1993. So stay tuned. The best (ahem) is yet to come.