One of the University of York’s oldest societies, York Student Cinema, celebrates the 50th anniversary of its founding this year. Initially known as the York Film Society, the organisation showed its first movie, the Peter Sellers comedy Two-Way Stretch, on 28 April 1968. It has since maintained an active presence in the University up to the present day.
Initially, the society showed its films from within Heslington Hall, using the economical if grainy 16mm film format. Joining required a membership fee of £15, whereupon members could see three films every week and attend meetings held regularly at Langwith Bar. In 1970, it created its own student magazine, Much Acclaimed, which has also continued into the present day (now under the name of Exposure).
In 1980, the British Federation of Film Societies declared York Film Society the ‘Film Society of the Year’, an award they won again in 1988. Retaining their 16mm projector, they also moved their screenings to P/X/001 during the 1980s. However, despite this success, the society was beginning to struggle economically. The University had vetoed their requests to train their own projectionists or buy their own equipment, meaning these had to be hired and rented externally.
This ultimately left the society £1500 in debt (£5745 today, adjusted for inflation), and only showing one film a week. They were also facing serious competition from York Film Theatre, a rival student cinema operating out of Central Hall.
However, by 1988 the society was able to afford a new 35mm projector, which showed its first film (coming-of-age tale Hope and Glory) on 22 May.
In 1990, a new screen was installed in P/X/001 worth £4000, and a Dolby surround-sound speaker system was installed along with it in 1991. Once again, the society won BFFA Film Society of the Year in 1992.