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Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009

IU to break ground for IU Cinema, University Theater renovation

Oct. 14, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University officials will conduct a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday, Oct. 17, for a project that will renovate the University Theater and convert it to a state-of-the-art cinema facility, while also adding classroom, rehearsal and performance space for the Department of Theatre and Drama.

The renovation will create a 300-seat IU Cinema, which will accommodate film studies courses, campus film festivals and series, student-directed works, and visits by well-known filmmakers and scholars. It also will add a small studio theater, a movement studio and other amenities for the Department of Theatre and Drama, in addition to a large loading area for the stage of the IU Auditorium.

Theatre photo

University Theater

Print-Quality Photo

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie and IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson will lead the groundbreaking at 2 p.m. on the steps of University Theater on the north side of the IU Auditorium at 1211 E. Seventh St. The public is invited.

"This major new project continues Indiana University's ambitious investment in the arts and humanities," McRobbie said. "The new IU Cinema will be among the very finest such facilities in the country; it will be an exhibition space worthy of IU's outstanding film collections and superb reputation for scholarship in film studies. These important renovations also will provide badly needed space and amenities for the Department of Theatre and Drama."

The project will connect the IU Auditorium with the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center and the adjacent Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2010.

"This complex project will further enhance Indiana University Bloomington's excellent academic standing both in film studies and in theater," Hanson said. "It will be an important asset not only for students and faculty, but for members of the public, who will have opportunities to enjoy unique film showings and student theater productions in beautiful, functional facilities."

The IU Cinema will feature a range of technologies, including projectors that convert from 16 mm to 35 mm and high-quality digital projection and sound equipment. The orchestra pit will be renovated to allow live music to accompany silent films. A national search is under way for a director of the cinema.

Gregory Waller, chairman of the Department of Communication and Culture at IU Bloomington, said the cinema project signals strong support for film studies and will help the campus recruit the best graduate students and faculty in the discipline.

"It will give much deserved visibility to IU's enormous and under-recognized collections of films," Waller said. "And with a venue this good, we'll be able to promise filmmakers that they'll never see their film look better. That's quite an incentive to get people to visit."

IU's film studies assets include the David Bradley Collection of 16 mm films, the Black Film Center Archive, the Kinsey Institute collections, and Lilly Library collections of the papers of directors Orson Welles, John Ford and Peter Bogdanovich.

The project also includes a creative repurposing of the backstage and fly loft areas at University Theatre. Along with a small theater and movement studio, it will add classrooms, offices and space for voice, rehearsal and scene preparation. Accessible restrooms and an elevator will be added, and the roof, exterior walls, windows and building shell will be restored.

Jonathan Michaelsen, chair of the Department of Theatre and Drama, said the project comes at a propitious time, as growth of the department and the recent addition of a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theater have put a strain on current facilities.

"This renovation is a vital component to the performance and teaching missions of the department, providing crucial studio, classroom, rehearsal, performance and office spaces," Michaelsen said. "With the inclusion of a new studio theater, the renovation will not only open up new possibilities for our students and faculty in the classroom, but provide the public with additional opportunities to see theater on our campus."

University Theater was built along with the IU Auditorium and opened in 1939. Formerly used for IU theater productions, it has not been used since the Norvelle Center opened in 2002.

It features four of the historic Indiana Murals painted by Thomas Hart Benton for the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress Exposition. The murals are being restored by conservators from the IU Art Museum.

MGA Partners, a Philadelphia architectural firm, is coordinating the design. The project cost is $15 million, with $5 million funded by private gifts and $10 million from university funds. The IU Board of Trustees approved the financing and design of the project in 2008. It was approved in June 2009 by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and in July 2009 by the State Budget Committee.

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