Wesleyan will dedicate new facility this summer

This summer, Wesleyan U. will dedicate the $10 million Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies, the culmination of a two-phase, seven-year mission to give the university’s film department its own identity and its own home.

Lead architect Jim La Posta of Hartford firm Jeter Cook & Jepson remembers the acclaimed film scholar’s criteria for the new building: plenty of light, state-of-the-art screening spaces and a structure that would foster a sense of community.

“When people think of film, they think of sitting in the dark. But film is not about the darkness, it’s about the light,” Basinger directed La Posta, who recalls, “She explained to me how film is about the manipulation of light and form and space — a lot like architecture, actually.” The Corwin-Fuller professor of film studies and founder-curator of Wesleyan’s Cinema Archives wanted the structure to be flooded with light, but dark where it needed to be dark, and she was intimately involved in every phase of the design.

The modern edifice also had to link to the traditional-style Cinema Archives building — no small task, but one whose execution received a design award from the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Built of limestone and brick, the center features an airy Winter Garden, seminar rooms, editing suites, staff offices, the Rick Nicita gallery and two screening spaces.

The larger of these is the 420-seat Goldsmith Family Cinema, one that can project in virtually all formats — 16mm, 35mm, 70mm and digital — and features a 21st-century sound system.

“The screening room had to be absolutely perfect,” La Posta recalls. And the result “looks beautiful,” raves Wesleyan alum producer-director Michael Bay. “It can compare with the look and sound of (Los Angeles’) DGA Theater. It’s top tier.”

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