37 nonprofit film organizations nationwide funding to produce educational events pairing films with STEM speakers—in cinemas and, for the first full season, online and at the drive-in.
The Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation named 37 nonprofit cinemas, science museums, and arts organizations as the Spring 2021 recipients of Science on Screen® grants. Each organization will receive a grant of up to $8,500 to develop or sustain its own Science on Screen program, which pairs expert-led discussions of scientific topics with screenings of feature and documentary films. Over 10 seasons since the inception of this national grant initiative, the Coolidge and the Sloan Foundation have awarded 274 grants to 96 film- and science-focused organizations in 42 states across the country.
“We are thrilled to celebrate a decade of producing the Science on Screen program in partnership with The Coolidge Corner Theatre,” said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Sloan Foundation. “These wonderful events pair popular films–including Sloan-supported features such as Hidden Figures and Tesla and documentaries such as Coded Bias and Picture a Scientist–with science and technology experts to show that science can illuminate films just as films can illuminate science. And with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering theaters across the country, support for nonprofit film organizations is more important than ever.”
The Spring 2021 Science on Screen grantees are: Amherst Cinema, Amherst, Mass.; Arkansas Cinema Society, Little Rock, Ark.; Athena Cinema, Athens, Ohio; Athens Ciné, Athens, Ga.; Austin Film Society, Austin, Texas; Belcourt Theatre, Nashville, Tenn.; California Film Institute (CFI), San Rafael, Calif.; Cameo Cinema, St. Helena, Calif.; Art House Cinema, Billings, Mont.; The Colonial Theatre, Bethlehem, N.H.; Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville, Pa.; Dietrich Theater, Tunkhannock, Pa.; Discovery Place, Charlotte, N.C.; DCTV, New York, N.Y.; Enzian Theater, Maitland, Fla.; Film Streams, Omaha, Neb.; FilmScene, Iowa City, Iowa; Frida Cinema, Santa Ana, Calif.; Gateway Film Center, Columbus, Ohio; The Gem, Bethel, Maine; Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.; The Loft Cinema, Tucson, Ariz.; Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, Vineyard Haven, Mass.; McWane Science Center, Birmingham, Ala.; Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor, MI; MSP Film, Minneapolis, Minn.; Museum of the Moving Image, Astoria, N.Y.; Ragtag Film Society, Columbia, Mo.; Real Art Ways, Hartford, Conn.; Rosendale Theatre Collective, Rosendale, N.Y.; Ross Ragland Theater, Klamath Falls, Ore.; Roxy Theater, Missoula, Mont.; Salina Art Center, Salina, Kan.; Science Moab, Moab, Utah; The Tull Family Theater, Sewickley, Pa.; Utah Film Center, Salt Lake City, Utah; and Willcox Theater and Arts, Willcox, Ariz.
All of these grant recipients—which span 25 states from coast to coast—play a significant role in the cultural life of their communities, with successful track records of building strong community partnerships and producing creative, thought-provoking film programs that both educate and entertain audiences. Twenty-seven are prior recipients of Science on Screen grants; 10 are launching Science on Screen programs for the first time this spring.
The Spring 2021 season is the 10th season of the Coolidge/Sloan Foundation nationwide Science on Screen partnership, which seeks to inspire in theater-goers an increased appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as compelling enterprises and vital elements of a broad understanding of human culture and current events. Over 10 seasons, grantees have sold held more than 125,000 tickets to over 900 Science on Screen events (including tickets from the many grantees that offer free admission to their Science on Screen series.) Those events have featured presentations by hundreds of professors, doctors, teachers, farmers, journalists, and many more, including at least five Nobel laureates—including James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix—three Pulitzer Prize winners, ten astronauts, and other luminaries including Anote Tong, former President of The Republic of Kiribati; outed CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson; and autism activist Temple Grandin.
Spring 2021 is also the first full season to incorporate virtual Science on Screen programming—a transition that began early in the 2019–2020 season, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic that began shuttering cinemas and museums last March. Nineteen of this year’s grantees remain entirely closed to in-theater audiences, as does the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
Virtual programs—most free live-streamed Zoom conversations that are posted to and remain on YouTube—have expanded Science on Screen’s reach. The 26 virtual Science on Screen events run during the 2019–20 season have been viewed more than 64,000 times to date, a number that continues to increase. The Coolidge partnered with filmmakers of several documentaries—including the Sloan-sponsored films PICTURE A SCIENTIST and CODED BIAS— to create nationwide Science on Screen events that pushed those films out to national audiences. More than 400 videos of past in-person Science on Screen events on a huge range of STEM topics are also freely available to the public on the Science on Screen YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/c/scienceonscreen); collectively they have garnered 27,500 views since February 2020 and 60,873 in total.
"We are so proud to celebrate 10 years of expanding public understanding of science through film and discussion, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Sloan’s ongoing support has been more important than ever as our grantees strive to find new ways to bring entertaining and eye-opening programming to audiences during coronavirus closures,” says Katherine Tallman, Executive Director & CEO of Coolidge Corner Theatre. “The past year has been extremely difficult for film exhibitors, given the inherent reliance on physical presentation. But Science on Screen’s expansion into virtual programming has allowed the Coolidge and our grantee theaters to continue to draw attention to pressing STEM issues of our time, including racial and gender bias in facial recognition systems, and sexism in science. Reaching beyond physical spaces has allowed us to host discussions with a wider range of scientists, filmmakers and audiences.”
Initially conceived and established in 2005 for Coolidge Corner Theatre regional audiences, Science on Screen creatively pairs feature films and documentaries with lively presentations by experts from the world of science, technology, and medicine. The series is one of the theater’s longest-running and most successful programs. The events feature a mix of classic, cult, science fiction, and nonfiction films accompanied by introductions from speakers who discuss specific scientific, technological, or medical issues raised by each film. Topics have ranged from what happens inside the brains of freestyle rappers when they rhyme off the cuff (8 Mile) to the social and software engineering mechanisms behind the spread of fake news (Ace in the Hole) to what genetic testing kits can really tell you about your ancestry (Flirting with Disaster).
The goal of Science on Screen has always been to enlighten through entertainment—a goal that aligns with the Sloan Foundation’s own mission. For more than a decade, the Sloan Foundation has partnered with leading film schools and film festivals to support and recognize screenwriters and filmmakers who explore scientific and/or technological themes in their work. The annual Sloan Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology, awarded at the Hamptons International and Sundance film festivals, has gone to some of the leading filmmakers while helping to launch the careers of promising newcomers.
In 2011, the Sloan Foundation partnered with the Coolidge Corner Theatre to take the Science on Screen concept beyond the Greater Boston area. With the support of a $150,000 grant from the Sloan Foundation, the program grew to encompass eight independent cinemas spanning the country. In the ensuing years, the two organizations have awarded more than $1.9 million to 247 art house cinemas, arts organizations, and science and art museums nationwide.
The recipient theaters have demonstrated that Science on Screen can thrive in every part of the country. The following are a few highlights from early in the 2019–2020 season across the nation:
- In December, the Honolulu Museum of Art presented the 2018 documentary THE FEELING OF BEING WATCHED, with a post-screening discussion about surveillance technology and how it affects Muslim-American communities. The event included an "inverse surveillance" workshop that taught participants how to use the Freedom of Information Act to retrieve public surveillance information collected about them.
- In January, at the Roxy Theater in Missoula, Montana, members of the team behind the onX wilderness map app explained modern-day map reading and how to use today’s technology to locate yourself in the world. After the presentation, the audience went on a GPS-enabled treasure hunt around the Roxy.
- On February 2, the Athena Cinema in Columbus, Ohio, welcomed famed autism activist and icon (and livestock husbandry expert) Temple Grandin, who discussed her work, her struggles, and her strengths as a person with autism with a sold-out crowd before a screening of the 2010 biopic TEMPLE GRANDIN. The event sold out faster than any other screening the cinema has ever offered.
- Athens Cine in Athens, Georgia, screened the documentary THE POLLINATORS on March 10 with a presentation by a master beekeeper and a bee disease specialist explaining the plight of honeybees in today's monoculture agriculture. The sold-out event launched with a reception celebrating the bee, featuring honey tastings, baklava and appetizers made with local honey, honey-inspired cocktails, and selfies with the Queen Bee. The event was so popular that 20 people had to be turned away at the door.
- In April, the Cameo Cinema of St. Helena, Calif., partnered with WIRED magazine to present a virtual live-stream paper plane aerodynamics workshop with John "The Paper Airplane Guy" Collins. Collins taught the audience how to fold five planes with different aerodynamic features, including "Suzanne," the plane that earned John the world record for farthest flight by a paper airplane.
Spring 2021 grantees are required to implement at least three Science on Screen programs over the course of the grant period. (January 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021—abbreviated due to the extension of the 2019–20 season. Typical seasons run for a full academic year, and that schedule will resume for the 2021–22 season.) At lease one of the films shown must be a past recipient of the annual Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize or a Sloan Development Grant. With winners such as First Man, Searching, Tesla, The Aeronauts, Hidden Figures, The Martian, The Imitation Game, Coded Bias, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, Particle Fever, and Grizzly Man grantees have a rich library of films to choose from.
About the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a New York based, philanthropic, not-for-profit institution that makes grants in three areas: research in science, technology, and economics; quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and public engagement with science. Sloan's program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, supports books, radio, film, television, theater and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience and to bridge the two cultures of science and the humanities. Sloan's Film Program encourages filmmakers to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists and engineers in the popular imagination. Over the past two decades, Sloan has partnered with some of the top film schools in the country—including AFI, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and USC plus public film schools—and established annual awards in screenwriting and film production, along with an annual best-of-the best Student Grand Jury Prize. The Foundation also supports screenplay development programs with the Sundance Institute, Tribeca Film Institute, SFFILM, Film Independent, the Black List, the Athena Film Festival, and the North Fork TV Festival, and has helped develop over 30 feature films including Tesla, Radium Girls, Adventures of a Mathematician, One Man Dies a Million Times, The Sound of Silence, To Dust, Operator, The Imitation Game, and The Man Who Knew Inﬁnity. The Foundation has supported feature documentaries such as Picture a Scientist, Coded Bias, In Silico, Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, The Bit Player, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Particle Fever, and Jacques Perrin's Oceans. It has also given early recognition to stand out films such as Son of Monarchs, Ammonite, The Aeronauts, Searching, The Martian, and Hidden Figures. The Foundation has an active theater program and commissions about twenty science plays each year from the Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and the National Theatre in London, as well as supporting select productions across the country and abroad. Recent grants have supported Charly Evon Simpson’s Behind the Sheet, Bess Wohl’s Continuity, Lucy Kirkwood's Mosquitoes, Chiara Atik's Bump, Nick Payne's Constellations, Lucas Hnath's Isaac's Eye, and Anna Ziegler's Photograph 51. The Foundation's book program includes early support for Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, the best-selling book that became the highest grossing Oscar-nominated film of 2017 and a social and cultural milestone .
For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, visit sloan.org or follow the Foundation on Twitter and Facebook at @SloanPublic.
About the Coolidge Corner Theatre
The nonprofit Coolidge Corner Theatre is a premier American independent cinema renowned for its curated feature film programming and innovative signature educational, cultural, and entertainment programs. A beloved movie house, the Coolidge has been pleasing audiences with the best in cinematic entertainment since 1933. In addition to premiere theatrical engagements of independent film and art house releases, the Coolidge presents numerous special programs including: Science on Screen, high definition live broadcasts from London’s National Theatre and world renowned opera and ballet companies, Big Screen Classics, midnite screenings, The Sounds of Silents®, and weekend kids’ programs. The Coolidge has won numerous awards and honors for its creative programming. For more information, visit coolidge.org