The Tel Aviv Cinematheque opened in 1973 and was the first cinematheque in Israel. It sought to heighten public awareness of the art of filmmaking, reflecting a belief that filmmaking also embodies an expression of other art forms. The Cinematheque was established to serve as a home for Israeli cinema and its creators, and constitutes a meeting place for all film industry professionals and enthusiasts. It also devotes considerable attention to film education that is also values-oriented.
The Tel Aviv Cinematheque is a film center that offers an alternative to commercial movie theaters. It is where one can find everything related to high quality, classic and experimental filmmaking, created locally and overseas, and it incorporates the gamut of endeavors associated with Israeli filmmaking.
Besides the fact that the Cinematheque is a key component of the cultural-social scene in Tel Aviv-Yafo, it also provides a platform to many filmmakers, both Israeli and foreign, whose films are not shown at the 'commercial' theaters due to political, social or financial considerations. In addition to showing independent, 'niche,' subversive and experimental films, the Cinematheque offers its audiences premieres of Israeli films, films dealing with particular themes, retrospectives of different filmmakers, and conceptual festivals, including: the DocAviv documentary film festival, a jazz festival, a gay film festival that explores gender and sexuality issues, the Animix animated film festival, a spiritual festival, a children's film festival, and international film weeks that feature films from different countries such as France, Australia, Britain, Ireland, China, India, Korea, et al. For the audience, these events offer the only opportunity to see these films.
The Cinematheque is open daily from early in the morning until the wee hours of the night, drawing about 30,000 visitors every month.
Daytime activities at the Cinematheque include:
The Educational Project - which offers seminars, workshops and continuing education programs designed to impart the fundamentals of cinematic language to their participants, ranging from very young children to soldiers (Sunday Culture), and teach them how to watch and love films.
Enrichment courses in cinema for adults, in addition to conferences, events and seminars for different organizations.
The Cinematheque has a large membership club.
The well-known periodical – "Cinematheque" – published by the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, is the only periodical in Israel that deals with cinema-related topics.
The Cinematheque's film library is the largest information center of its kind in Israel. It also contains the library of the Israel Film Center and has roughly 30,000 films, about 10,000 books, thousands of magazines and hundreds of thousands of newspaper clippings, stills photographs, and posters. The film library offers it services to the general public throughout Israel and to information centers abroad.
The official opening of the new wing at the Cinematheque took place in January. It was designed by the architect Salo Hershman (who also planned the original building). The new wing, whose architectural style can be defined as modernistic if not 'futuristic' - includes three new and particularly spacious movie theaters, fitted with projection and sound equipment which is among the most sophisticated in the world, office space, the film library, a café and restaurant. The building's design, featuring huge red metal pipes, enormous mirrors, and fragmented geometric shapes, has kindled a variety of reactions among visitors and astonishment among all those who viewed the Cinematheque as a small, intimate and simple locale.
The move to larger movie theaters, enveloped by a structure that has an unusual, conspicuous and contemporary design, is much more than just a renovation or expansion. It is an architectural-aesthetic attempt to modify a cultural misconception regarding the Cinematheque's need 'to preserve.' The idea was to produce a more suitable space that has volume, capacity and configurational complexity and serves as an analogy for the paradoxes that characterize the place in any case: old opposed to new, conservatism opposed to subversion, narrativity opposed to experientiality, existentialism opposed to orientalism, and above all – artistry opposed to commercialism. The fact that the previous walls of the Cinematheque, made of traditional Jerusalem stone, moved from the outer shell to interior walls in the very heart of the building, substantiates the claim that there is no point in mourning their original roots. Rather, one should celebrate the fact that this intimate and 'timid' place doesn't lose itself inside the 'fashionable costume,' but actually gives birth to itself again, expands, and grows towards the future and new endeavors it is aiming at.