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Cinema Studies professor featured in the NY Times

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Cinema Studies professor featured in the NY Times
By Katie Land, news editor

As Ross Melnick, Ph.D., prepares for his first semester of teaching at Oakland University, he is already in the spotlight after appearing in a New York Times article this weekend.

The English and Cinema Studies assistant professor was featured as a result of an internet database he created more than ten years ago, dedicated to cataloguing movie theaters across America and the world.

The Cinema Treasures site was launched in 2000 by Dr. Melnick and Patrick Crowley, who both worked in the film and media industries at the time. In the late 90’s, Dr. Melnick and Crowley were interested in the possibilities of using the Internet as a tool for historical preservation and to produce new knowledge, something that had not been really explored yet.

“The site was built on passion,” Dr. Melnick said. “People have strong connections to movie theaters. It is where they took their first date, a place connected to their childhood. We all associate theaters with the films we love, the ones that touch us and change us.”

Over the past decade, the site has grown from an archive of about 125 theaters in the U.S. to its present state that encompasses more than 31,000 theaters in roughly 200 countries. It has become a place for people of all ages and interests to share their own movie-going stories and those of their community.

At this point, the site has taken on a life of its own, Dr. Melnick said. The information is added and maintained by users from across the globe. Prominent members hail from such diverse places as Milwaukee, San Diego, Berlin, Hong Kong and London.

“We want to preserve the experience of going to the movies,” Dr. Melnick continued. “Not just the historic buildings and grand movie palaces, but theaters everywhere of all kinds. So many people don’t go to movie theaters anymore; we want to bring some of that excitement back.”

While the NY Times article was “extremely gratifying” to Dr. Melnick, it was not the first time his site has been featured in prominent publications. Over the years, they have received attention from USA Today, CBS News, FOX News, the History Channel, A & E, the Los Angeles Times and more.

Now at OU, Dr. Melnick is keen to join the new Cinema Studies program. “I’m really looking forward to helping the program grow. It’s a very exciting atmosphere.”

Fresh from Los Angeles, Dr. Melnick is now ready to delve into the theaters of Detroit, and to engage his first group of Oakland students. This fall, he is set to teach History of Film: The Silent Era and Film and Media Industries, and in the winter semester he will have Middle Eastern Cinema and Moviegoing in America, a course uniquely suited to his expertise.

For more information about programs and events in OU’s Cinema Studies program, view the website at oakland.edu/cinemastudies.

To read the NY Times article, click here. To view the Cinema Treasures website, go to cinematreasures.org.