As the most successful and influential film society in American history, Cinema 16 was a crucial organization for the creation of a public space for the full range of cinema achievement in the years following World War II. A precursor of the New York Film Festival, Cinema 16 screenings became a gathering place for New Yorkers interested not only in cinema, but in the use of media in the development of a more complete, effective democracy. For 17 years, many of the leading intellectuals and artists of the time came together as part of a membership society of thousands to experience the creative programming of Cinema 16 director, Amos Vogel. What audiences saw at Cinema 16 changed their lives and had an enduring impact not only on the New York City cultural scene, but nationwide. Vogel's distribution of landmark documentary and avant-garde films helped make a place for many films that could never have had commercial release, given the pressures of commercialism and censorship during the postwar era.