A cinematheque is an archive of films and film-related objects with an exhibition venue. Similarly to a book library (bibliothèque in French), a cinematheque is responsible for preserving and making available to the public film heritage. Typically, a cinematheque has at least one motion picture theatre, which offers screenings of its collections and other international films.
From the first cinema screenings until 1930, several attempts to establish film archives were initiated in Europe, the USA and Russia. As early as 1898, the photographer and cameraman Bolesław Matuszewski evoked the idea of a film archive. "It is a matter of giving this perhaps privileged source of history the same authority, the same official existence, the same access as to other archives already known". The "Archives of the Planet” (Les Archives de la planète) were established by Albert Kahn, between 1912 and 1931. Military film archives were also created in France, Germany and Great Britain after the First World War. The cinematheque of the city of Paris, for educational purposes, was created in 1925.
However, it was not until the 1930s and the awareness of the destruction of films at the time of the transition to sound movies that the first film archives emerged. Some of the first formal film archives were created: in Stockholm in 1933, the Reichsfilmarchiv in Berlin in 1934, the National Film Library in London and the Film Library at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1935, the Cinémathèque française in Paris created in 1936. In 1938, the International Federation of Film Archives was created, bringing together institutions devoted to cinematographic heritage. On 27 October 1980, the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the "Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images" which recognizes the need to preserve and provide access to cinematographic heritage. In 1991, the Association of European Cinematheques (ACE - Association des Cinémathèques Européennes) was established.