It is the oldest, largest, and arguably most reputable such school in the United States, established in 1929 as a joint venture with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Having been ranked as one of the best film schools in the world on several occasions, SCA has most notably topped THR's ranking for seven consecutive years. As such, admissions into the school are extremely competitive, with an estimated 2–3% acceptance rate—lower than that of, for example, Harvard.
In April 2006, the USC Board of Trustees voted to change the school's name to the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
On September 19, 2006, USC announced that alumnus George Lucas had donated US$175 million to expand the film school with a new 137,000-square-foot (12,700 m2) facility. This represented the largest single donation to USC and the largest to any film school in the world. His previous donations resulted in the naming of two existing buildings after him and his then-wife, though Lucas was not fond of the architecture used in those buildings. An architectural hobbyist, Lucas laid out the original designs for the project, inspired by the Mediterranean Revival Style that was used in older campus buildings as well as the Los Angeles area. The project also received another $50 million in contributions from Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company.
Eileen Norris Cinema Theatre Complex, featuring a 365-seat theatre that also serves as a classroom with USC faculty member and Academy Award winner Tomlinson Holman's THX audiovisual reproduction standard used in film venues worldwide. The Frank Sinatra Hall, dedicated in 2002, houses a public exhibit and collection of extensive memorabilia commemorating Sinatra's life and contributions to American popular culture.
At the center of the new television complex is a statue of founder Douglas Fairbanks. He is seen holding a fencing weapon in one hand to reflect his strong ties with the USC Fencing Club.
The Eileen Norris Cinema Theater, a 340-seat theater that regularly hosts film screenings, lectures, and special events. It was where THX was first developed and installed.
Since 1973, at least one alumnus of SCA has been nominated for an Academy Award annually, totaling 256 nominations and 78 wins.
Since 1973, at least one SCA alumnus or alumna has been nominated for the Emmy Award annually, totalling 473 nominations and 119 wins.
The top 17 grossing films of all time have had an SCA graduate in a key creative position.
The Princeton Review has ranked the Interactive Media and Games Division's video game design program best in North America multiple years in a row.
Both The Hollywood Reporter and USA Today have ranked SCA the number one film program in the world, with its unmatched facilities, proximity to Hollywood, and numerous industry connections being the primary rationale.
Awards for USC Cinema short films
In 1956, producer Wilber T. Blume, a USC Cinema instructor at the time, received an Academy Award for best live action short film for a film he created entitled The Face of Lincoln. Blume also received an Academy Award nomination that year for documentary short.
^"History". USC Cinematic Arts. University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. Retrieved January 27, 2017. Our over 10,000 living alumni include scholars in teaching institutions throughout the world, artists, technicians, writers, directors, and industry executives, many operating at the highest levels in their fields.