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President McRobbie: Building on a glorious IU tradition

By Michael A. McRobbie
President, Indiana University

The University Theatre is a most symbolic location for the new Indiana University Cinema. Completed in 1941 as part of the IU Auditorium complex, the theater embodies IU's glorious history of artistic accomplishment, combining great traditions of performance and visual art. In addition to its decades as a theater, it is home to four sections of Thomas Hart Benton's magnificent Indiana murals, created more than 75 years ago.

Michael McRobbie

Michael McRobbie, Indiana University President

Print-Quality Photo

Steeped in rich artistic tradition, this theater space will return to life, offering scholars, students and the broader community an accessible, dedicated facility that is vitally necessary to the cinematic experience.

The cinema will feature a combination of digital cinema and traditional projection capabilities that will place within the top tier of similar facilities elsewhere in the nation. It will open opportunities for the development of new interdisciplinary programs. Using fiber optics and the huge bandwidth of Internet2, which IU operates, this space will show film classics as well as the latest digital experimental, international and scientific cinematic creations.

The world of the cinema has changed dramatically over the years. Over the past few decades, we have seen the democratization of the cinema industry. One visit to YouTube shows the impact of relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use movie-making technology. But the online viewing experience stands in stark opposition and contrast to the shared, communal experience of large-scale projection that defines true cinema.

The very best cinema and the very best theater bring people from varied backgrounds together to explore other worlds, to visit other times and to suspend their own lives for that moment in the theater.

President Wells said something akin to this in 1941, when he dedicated the IU Auditorium. Unlike other types of university buildings, the auditorium is a striking example of a building that, as he said, "contributes to institutional unity." Wells went on, "This building will serve as a gathering place for students of all divisions, undergraduate and graduate, and for members of the staff, academic and non-academic."

The new IU Cinema and the renovated Department of Theatre and Drama building, like the rest of IU's magnificent Fine Arts Plaza, represent years of determination, dedication and intellectual effort, all directed toward strengthening and honoring IU's traditions in the arts and humanities. Like the IU Art Museum, the Lilly Library, the Musical Arts Center and the IU Auditorium, the new cinema facility is a symbol of Indiana's rich cultural heritage.

The cinema also represents the depth of the university's commitment to training the next generation of scholars, performers and artists. The best drama haunts and inspires, plumbing the depths of what it means to be human, and expanding the sense of what it means to be alive. These are the heights of artistic creation toward which that next generation will reach, and these are the facilities that will enable them to reach those heights.