by Meghan Stratman
The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center offers an alternative to commercial movie theaters showing critically acclaimed films you won’t see anywhere else in town.
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. Located at 13th and R streets, The Ross shows movies seven days a week and features two theaters with state-of-the art digital projection systems, a concessions stand, research library, and film archive.
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 when Danny Lee Ladely became 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 what would become 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-Heraldin 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, 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 The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, Moonlightand Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; documentary films RBG, Three Identical Strangers, and This is Congo; and foreign films The Square(Sweden) and A Fantastic Woman(Chile). The theater also hosts frequent filmmaker visits and Q&A sessions where audience members have a chance to interact with filmmakers and artists from around the world. Recent guest artists have included composer Danny Elfman, Directors Dan Mirvish and Ana Asensio, author Emily Danforth, and actor/rodeo cowboy Brady Jandreau.
The Ross also shows live broadcasts via satellite from the National Theatre in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York, so viewers can enjoy world-class opera and theater without leaving Lincoln. Broadcasts in 2019 include Wagner’s Die Walküreand Bizet’s Carmenfrom the Met and I’m Not Runningfrom 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, upcoming films and events, online ticketing, and membership information.