The State Theatre in Modesto is one of 20 art-house cinemas across the country to win a $7,000 grant to start a science film and speaker series.
The grant was awarded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's "Science on Screen" program, which has a mission of making science cool.
The State Theatre's first science-related film, which will be shown in September or October, is the 2004 Dennis Quaid adventure movie "The Day After Tomorrow," about catastrophic weather changes because of global warming. The series also will feature the 2009 movie "Adam," about a man with Asperger's syndrome, and a third movie that's not yet been finalized. Dates have not been scheduled.
Richard Anderson, a retired Modesto Junior College faculty member in science, math and engineering, who is one of several local scientists working on the series, said he's excited about it.
"We know there's a real thirst out there for science in the community," Anderson said. "I think anyone who comes will be rewarded."
The other film series committee members include representatives from schools and from Modesto Area Partners in Science, which has done community presentations on scientific issues for 20 years.
Sue Richardson, the State
Theatre's executive director, who wrote the grant application, said the film series is particularly important because of low science scores among the region's high school students.
According to the California Department of Education, the science achievement (biology, chemistry, physics) test scores of high school students in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties are as much as 25 percent lower when compared with students in other California counties.
"We know employers are critical oftentimes of the lack of skills in mathematics and science," said Randy Siefkin, vice chairman of the State Theatre board. "They would argue we need individuals who are proficient in hard sciences and math to attract industry to the area."
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation offered grant money for art-house cinemas to develop science-related film series modeled after a successful program debuted in 2005 by the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, Mass. That series included such eclectic films as "8 Mile" paired with a lecture on the neural basis of freestyle rap; "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" with a talk on humpback whales; and "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" with a talk on the feasibility of time travel.
The foundation gave eight grants last year and expanded the program to 20 grants this year. Other winners in this cycle include Cinefamily in Los Angeles and Media Arts Center San Diego.
Siefkin said this grant is one of the most exciting the State Theatre has received. "It involves a community collaboration that wasn't there before," he said, referring to the committee of scientists working on the series. "We think it serves the broader needs of the community."
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at lrenner@modbee. com or (209) 578-2313.