Canyon Cinema Foundation is dedicated to educating the public about independent, non-commercial, experimental, avant-garde, and artist-made moving images. We manifest this commitment by providing access to our unrivaled collection to universities and cultural organizations worldwide, as well as cultivating scholarship and appreciation of artist-made cinema. We ensure the experience of rare film works in their original medium while also reaching new audiences through our growing digital distribution program.
Canyon Cinema’s unique collection of artist-made films – comprised of digital media, 8mm, Super 8, 16mm, and 35mm prints – traces the vital history of the experimental and avant-garde filmmaking movements from 1921 to the present. With a strong emphasis on American West Coast and San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers, we are the access point to more than 3,500 ground-breaking works representing 300 artists.
To search Canyon Cinema’s unique collection of artist-made films, please visit: canyoncinema.com
Founded by the filmmaker Bruce Baillie in Canyon, California, in 1961, Canyon Cinema began as an alternative exhibition venture created by and for friends. Baillie’s backyard microcinema emerged in response to the top-down, centralized American media monoculture of the 1950s. Established amid a hotbed of countercultural activity and revolutionary politics, and in a spirit of do-it-yourself, community-based organizing, Canyon Cinema began as a forum to share locally made films (and other small-gauge fare) in a neighborhood environment. Intimacy, flexibility, and a rejection of formality and normality were its defining principles. The series quickly became semi-nomadic, hopping across a heterodox assortment of Bay Area locations, from an anarchist restaurant in Berkeley, to the Oakland Art Institute, to Chick Strand’s backyard, drawing additional artists into its orbit as it went.
In late 1966, this flourishing network of Bay Area independent filmmakers founded Canyon Cinema Co-op as a member-owned and -operated distribution company and film service organization. (The co-op was formally incorporated in 1967). A year later, its exhibition practices were rebranded as Canyon Cinematheque, which in time split off to become the San Francisco Cinematheque. In 2012, Canyon’s members voted to become a nonprofit, the Canyon Cinema Foundation. After more than 50 years, Canyon Cinema Foundation remains committed to reimagining what it means to be a reliable, artist-centered distributor of some of the most adventurous filmmaking being done outside the mainstream.
For more on the history of Canyon Cinema, please see Scott MacDonald’s Canyon Cinema: The Life and Times of an Independent Distributor (University of California Press, 2008).