The USC School of Cinematic Arts originated in 1929 as a collaboration between the University of Southern California and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The original faculty consisted of such industry professionals as screenwriter Clara Beranger, playwright William C. DeMille, actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, directors D.W. Griffith and Ernst Lubitsch, and producers Irving Thalberg and Darryl Zanuck. To support the curriculum, the faculty encouraged many of their colleagues to contribute their papers, scripts and production materials to the university library.
Members of the Hollywood community, such as directors Robert Wise and George Cukor, agent Stanley Musgrove; composers Dimitri Tiomkin, Alfred Newman, and Maurice Jarre; and actors Clark Gable, Edward G. Robinson, and Burt Lancaster aggressively campaigned to enhance the library's collection of primary resource materials devoted to motion pictures and television. The resulting collections and archives contain the work of almost 300 Hollywood directors, writers, actors and musicians.
The Cinematic Arts Library's Archives of Performing Arts contains the following studio collections: MGM, Universal Studios, Twentieth Century-Fox, Hal Roach, Republic Pictures, Carolco Pictures and, in an affiliated collection, the complete Warner Bros. Archives. Included are such varied materials as scripts, production records, memos and correspondence, stills, scrapbooks, pressbooks, sketches and drawings, music scores, editing notes and more, reflecting the diversity of artistry in the fields of film and television.
In 1995, the Cinematic Arts collection outgrew the small Department of Special Collections and became a library in its own right located on the ground floor of Doheny Library. The collection now encompasses more than 22,000 volumes of books and periodicals on all aspects of film and television: history, aesthetics, criticism, biography, films and TV programs, production techniques and the business and legal aspects of the entertainment industry. With its strong foreign-language coverage, the library has extensive resources on international cinema, particularly that pertaining to Eastern Europe. Subscriptions to 215 periodicals are available, including backruns of such early trade periodicals as Photoplay, Bioscope, Motion Picture Herald, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, TV Guide, Film Daily, and The Motion Picture Copyright Files for selected years. Other special materials include 60,000 clipping files on films, TV programs, personalities, production companies, studios, organizations and associations and general subjects; 20,000 scripts from both film and television, including classic as well as contemporary productions; more than one million photographs of personalities from motion pictures; pressbooks from more than 8,500 major U.S. films; audiotapes from USC cinema classes featuring professionals in the film and television industry, including producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, composers, etc.
Established through a grant from the Louis B. Mayer Foundation, the Cinematic Arts Library's Louis B. Mayer Film and Television Center is a collection of 13,000 motion pictures in a variety of formats consisting of VHS, Laser disc, and DVD. Additionally, the collection contains almost 3,000 film scripts, which circulate to film majors, and more than 20 video stations supporting all of the media formats in the library's collection. In the late 1990s, the center expanded to house computers and screenwriting and production software to support programs in the School of Cinematic Arts. The Louis B. Mayer Study Center is positioning itself to become a multimedia archive of materials ranging from the raw materials that go into the making of motion pictures, to the finished products themselves, and to all of the new technologies for preserving the moving image and presenting it to new generations of filmgoers.
In 1996, the Cinematic Arts Library acquired the library and archives of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Through an agreement with that institution's board of trustees, USC has established the collection as a separate archive within the Cinematic Arts Library. It has also become a repository for such collections as Johnny Carson's Tonight Show skit files, Gary Marshal's production files for such shows as Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and materials relating to Star Trek, among others. Other television personalities represented are George Burns and Gracie Allen, Chuck Connors, Steve Allen, Ernie Kovacs, and Edgar Bergen. The library also houses an Archive of Film and Television Music featuring materials from such studio collections as MGM and Warner Bros. and such individual composers as Alfred Newman, Maurice Jarre, David Rose, Dimitri Tiomkin and Nat King Cole.
In 1999, the School of Cinematic Arts and the University Libraries established the David L. Wolper Center for The Study of the Documentary Film as a subdivision of the Cinematic Arts Library.