History

Founded as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2005, Film Streams opened the two-screen, nonprofit Ruth Sokolof Theater in July 2007 in a North Downtown Omaha mixed-use development conceived by independent music label Saddle Creek Records.

Film Streams’ founding board, led by Chair David Jacobson, included Academy Award-winning writer director Alexander Payne, who joined the Film Streams Board of Directors in November 2005, Executive Director Rachel Jacobson, Scott Anderson, Andy Holland, Mark Javitch, Ginger O’Neal, Steve Seline, Betiana Simon, and Katie Weitz. Kurt Andersen, Jason Kulbel, Danny Lee Ladley, Robb Nansel, Joel Schlessinger, Mike B. Yanney, and Lyn Wallin Ziegenbein comprised the founding Advisory Board.

A start-up capital campaign supported by individuals, families, foundations, and corporations throughout the Omaha-Council Bluffs area raised $1.7 million for the opening of Omaha’s nonprofit cinema. Key early support came from the Sokolof-Javitch family, whose naming gift memorializes Ruth Sokolof, a cherished daughter, adored sister, beloved wife, mother and grandmother, dynamic educator, and helping hand to those in need; the Peter Kiewit Foundation, which provided an early challenge grant; First National Bank of Omaha; the Sherwood Foundation; Fred Simon and Dick Holland, whose support equipped the Ruth Sokolof Theater with the city’s first HD digital projection equipment; Kutak Rock LLP; Oxide Design Co.; and Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture.

On July 27, 2007, the Ruth Sokolof Theater grand opening was marked by showings of THE SEVEN SAMURAI, part of an inaugural repertory series curated by Alexander Payne, and the Omaha premiere of the Oscar-winning LA VIE EN ROSE. Open to the public seven days a week, 365 days a year, we have become the area’s destination for premieres of new independents, documentaries, and foreign films; classics from throughout the history of cinema; partnership screenings and discussions with diverse area organizations; and special programs complimenting all.

In March, 2008, Film Streams was profiled in a New York Times article. Writer Eric Konigsberg praised the Ruth Sokolof Theater and its programming as “the sort of resources one expects to stumble upon happily in second-city American metropolises — Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, even Washington or Chicago.” Film Streams has also been featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and on public radio’s “Studio 360.”

Since 2007, Film Streams’ unique Community Development program has fostered partnerships with fellow organizations on film-based events that speak to the missions of both groups. The inaugural collaboration, a screening of THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK presented with the Anti-Defamation League, lead the way for over two hundred events with just as many partners, including Meyer Foundation for Disabilities, Joslyn Art Museum, Design Alliance Omaha, Women’s Fund of Omaha, Nature Conservancy, Southern Sudan Community Association of Omaha, and dozens more. Film Streams has partnered with Opera Omaha to present every season of “The Met: Live in HD” since 2007.

 

Film Streams’ vibrant education initiative launched in 2008, with opportunities for visiting high school classes to attend free screenings of 400 BLOWS, PSYCHO, and SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE. The program has since expanded, and Film Streams now offers dozens of Daytime Education Screenings each school year and Student Night, held the first Monday of every month, when full-time students can see a film of their choice free of charge.

Feature, a gala fundraising event centered on conversation about film, began in July 2008 when Board Member Alexander Payne invited actress Laura Dern to Omaha. Over the following years, our guests have included Debra Winger (Feature 2009), Steven Soderbergh (Feature III), Jane Fonda (Feature IV), and director David O. Russell (Feature VI) – all invited by Alexander. For Feature V, the focus was on Payne’s work when he was joined by the stars of NEBRASKA – Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and June Squibb – for an onstage interview moderated by Advisory Board Member and radio host Kurt Andersen.

In October 2008, Omaha-based musicians Todd and Orenda Fink (of The Faint and Azure Ray, respectively) rang in our ongoing Silents in Concert series, performing a live score to THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. Since, a diverse group of local and international artists has provided accompaniment to classic silent films at the Ruth Sokolof Theater.

Cinemateca, our biennial series of Latino, Latin American, and Spanish film presented with UNO’s Office of Latino/Latin-American Studies (OLLAS), launched in 2008. In 2016, we will mark our fifth collaborative film series with OLLAS.

Film Streams’ Local Filmmaker’s Showcase was founded in 2010. Every year, we invite a jury to select a program of films by artists residing in Nebraska, Iowa, or South Dakota. Jurors have included indie rockers The Faint, the staff of Omaha’s Jackson Street Booksellers, and staff writers from the Omaha World-Herald.

Two of our biggest First-Run success stories are thanks to Film Streams Board Member Alexander Payne. In December 2011, the Ruth Sokolof Theater hosted exclusive preview screenings of THE DESCENDANTS. It was our highest grossing film until 2013, when Payne’s film NEBRASKA opened at our theater the same day as its New York and Los Angeles premieres.

In 2012, Film Streams purchased the portion of our building that houses the Ruth Sokolof Theater, securing our North Downtown home and lessening our fixed costs for investment in film programs.

Katie Weitz, PhD (pictured here with fellow Board Members Laura Alley and Alexander Payne), became Film Streams’ second Chair of the Board of Directors in January 2013.

In 2013, Film Streams’ Board of Directors and staff adopted a 3-year strategic plan that identified three focus areas: exposing new individuals and constituencies to Film Streams and the medium through expanded outreach efforts; creating unique experiences around film and transformational experiences for audiences; and engaging more students with the art of film to create life-long film lovers.

Film Streams is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the cultural environment of the Omaha-Council Bluffs area through the presentation and discussion of film as an art form. In July 2007, we opened the Ruth Sokolof Theater, our two-screen cinema located within the Saddle Creek Records complex in North Downtown Omaha.

As a nonprofit committed to screening films based on their creative, artistic, and social merits, Film Streams depends on the support of our membership program, individual donors, grants from foundations, corporations and government organizations, and community volunteers.