Anthology Film Archives evolved from roots and visions that go back to the early 1960s, when Jonas Mekas, the director of the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, a showcase for avant-garde films, dreamed of establishing a permanent home where the growing number of new independent/avant-garde films could be shown on a regular basis.
This dream became a reality in 1969 when Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Kubelka, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas drew up plans to create a museum dedicated to the vision of the art of cinema as guided by the avant-garde sensibility. A Film Selection committee – James Broughton, Ken Kelman, Peter Kubelka, Jonas Mekas, and P. Adams Sitney – was formed to establish a definitive collection of films (The Essential Cinema Repertory) and to determine the structure of the new institution.
Anthology Film Archives opened on November 30, 1970 at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. Jerome Hill was its sponsor. After Hill’s death, in 1974 it relocated to 80 Wooster Street. Pressed by the need for more adequate space, it acquired Manhattan’s Second Avenue Courthouse building in 1979. Under the guidance of the architects Raimund Abraham and Kevin Bone, and at a cost of $1,450,000, the building was adapted to house two motion picture theaters, a reference library, a film preservation department, offices, and a gallery, opening to the public on October 12, 1988.
At the Courthouse, Anthology has found an ideal home as a chamber museum, dedicated to the preservation, study, and exhibition of independent and avant-garde film. It is the first museum devoted to film as an art form, and is committed to the guiding principle that a great film must be seen many times, that the film print must be the best possible, and that the viewing conditions must be optimal.