by Meghan Stratman
The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center offers an alternative to commercial movie theaters and shows the critically acclaimed films you won’t see anywhere else in town.
Located at 13th and R streets, The Ross shows movies and events seven days a week and features two theaters with state-of-the art digital projection systems, a concessions stand, a research library, and a film storage archive. The Ross plays an important role within the academic community and the city of Lincoln, bringing Independent, documentary, foreign, and classic films to a wider audience.
What we know today as The Ross originally began with the late Norman A. Geske, the original director of the Sheldon Museum of Art, who established a film program within the University in 1964. This program later became the Sheldon Film Theater (housed in the Sheldon Museum of Art) with Danny Lee Ladely as the director in 1973. In 1990, Mary Riepma Ross established a $3.5 million trust at the University of Nebraska Foundation for the purpose of building and endowing the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center.
Mary Riepma Ross attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the 1920s and went on to practice law in New York after receiving her degree from Memphis State University. She started her own practice in 1961 and was one of the first female attorneys in the city. Throughout her life, she never forgot about her time in Nebraska and the University awarded her an honorary doctor of law degree in 1973. She loved film and the arts and started supporting the film programs at UNL in the 1970s.
“I love Nebraska. I love Nebraskans,” she told the Omaha World-Herald in 2003, the year the venue opened. Ross died in 2013 at the age of 102. Through her estate, she left a total of $9.5 million to the University of Nebraska Foundation to create a permanent endowment for the Media Arts Center, which will support programming, facilities, and community outreach for many years to come.
“The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center has been one of the most valuable resources for students studying and enjoying film on our campus. It is world class,” Charles O’Connor, endowed dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts, said at the time. “This gift is an investment in the future of our students.”
The theater also receives support from The Friends of the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center, a non-profit group established in 1981 that raises funds for programming and equipment. Friends Members receive ticket discounts, complimentary passes and invitations to special events.
The Ross showcases a wide variety of movies including critically-acclaimed independent films such as Hello, My Name is Doris, Born to be Blue, Chi-Raq and Hunt for the Wilderpeople; documentary films The Seventh Fire, Weiner, and City of Gold; and foreign films Dukhtar (from Pakistan) and A War (Denmark). The theater also hosts frequent filmmaker visits and Q&A sessions where audience members have a chance to interact with movie-makers from around the world. Recent guest artists have included directors Kelly Reichardt, Jack Riccobono, Penny Lane, Cholé Zhao, and Arthur Dong.
The Ross also shows live broadcasts via satellite from the National Theatre and the Metropolitan Opera, so viewers can enjoy world-class opera from New York and theater from London without leaving Lincoln. Broadcasts in 2017 will include Gounod’s Romeo et Juliet and Verdi’s La Traviata from the Met, and productions of Amadeus, Saint Joan, and Hedda Gabler from the National Theatre.
General admission tickets for regular Ross films are $7.50 for matinee screenings and $9.50 for evening screenings, with discounts available for children, military, seniors, and Friends of The Ross members. All regular film screenings and most Ross events are $5 for University of Nebraska, Southeast Community College, Nebraska Wesleyan, and Union College students. General admission for National Theatre and Met broadcasts is $24, with discounts for seniors and students.
The box office opens 30 minutes before the first screening of the day. The Ross website, www.theross.org, includes show times, current and upcoming films and events, online ticketing, and membership information.