Connaissance du cinéma was created on April 18, 1963 by a group of filmmakers and film buffs who realized the importance of conserving the related documentation as the memory of cinema. The founding members were Guy L. Coté, Jacques Giraldeau, Michel Patenaude, Avram Garmaise, Roland Brunet, Guy Comeau, Rock Demers, Talbot Johnson, John Rolland and Roy Little. Renamed Cinémathèque canadienne the 17th of July 1964, the Cinémathèque’s objectives were simple but fundamental:

  • Promote film culture
  • Create a film archives
  • Acquire and conserve films along with the related documentation
  • Screen films and exhibit documentation non-commercially, for historical, educational and artistic purposes

Numerous film programs, retrospectives and exhibitions were presented at the Cinémathèque’s first location, 3685 Jeanne-Mance in Montreal. In 1971, the institution changed its name to the Cinémathèque québécoise to better reflect its new goals, specifically focusing on the promotion of Quebec cinema. It moved to 360 McGill Street and later, in 1981, to its current address at 335 de Maisonneuve Boulevard East.

In 1966, the Cinémathèque became a member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), a professional network providing access to an incalculable number films and film-related materials. With its screenings, retrospectives and other activities, the Cinémathèque paid tribute to the world’s great filmmakers, from Marguerite Duras and Federico Fellini to Georges Franju. The Cinémathèque enriched its collections and further enhanced its international reputation with major acquisitions such as the Cinématographe Lumière No. 16, in 1996, and the Daniel Langlois Foundation’s vast collection of important artistic and historical documents, in 2001.

To remain a dynamic and modern institution, the Cinémathèque renovated and enlarged its facilities in the late 1990s and also created a website.

The Cinémathèque’s international animation collection comprises five thousand titles, making it the largest such collection held by any film library in the world. Animation is thus an area of expertise for the Cinémathèque, which since 2001 has organized the Sommets du cinéma d’animation de Montréal, an annual event celebrating animation in all its forms.

In 2006, the Quebec government gave the Cinémathèque responsibility for the legal deposit of Quebec films and television programs. The agreement was renewed in 2011 for a further five years.

With ever-more screenings and retrospectives, the Cinémathèque has managed to showcase innovative and influential filmmakers, animators and television personalities, while overcoming the challenges of these past 50 years to ensure the continuation of its core activity: conserving and promoting our cinema, television and new media heritage.

Read the article by Robert Daudelin (in French only), La Vie (des cinémathèques) commence à 50 ans...