For thirty years, the Cinema Arts Program has been critical to the Exploratorium’s innovative melding of the arts and sciences. From the museum's earliest days, Exploratorium founder Frank Oppenheimer was interested in building a cinema program and collection. He reached out to innovative artists and scientists such as Charles and Ray Eames and Stan Brakhage for advice on films and programmatic perspective. The program officially launched in 1983 when founder and artistic director Liz Keim made a formal proposal for a weekly cinematic venture that pushed the boundaries of cinema in a science setting.
In addition to organizing weekly screenings, the Cinema Arts Program collects a variety of moving image works. The 16mm film collection holds approximately 650 titles, ranging from historic documents (Trip Down Market Street (1906)) to decessioned ephemeral films rescued from local libraries to films by artists specially commissioned to create new works (including filmmakers such as Paul Clipson, Christian Bruno, Natalija Veckic, Michael Rudnick, and Gustavo Vasquez). The Cinema Arts Program also collects contemporary digital works.
Cinema arts program staff travel nationally and internationally generating programs, speaking to audiences, and sharing their unique perspective on how to develop innovative programming in relationship to cross-disciplinary themes.