Moving Image sees its expansion as huge step forward

The new 264-seat theater designed by Leeser Architecture will be equipped for films in super 8, 16mm and 35mm films. The theater curtain is a specially designed textile by Cindy Sirko. Photo courtesy Museum of the Moving Image
By Nathan Duke

Astoria’s Museum of the Moving Image will become one of the world’s largest film museums when it reopens its doors Jan. 15 following a $67 million expansion that includes a redesigned first floor, an elevated movie theater, a three-story addition and a new gallery for exhibits.

The museum, at 35th Avenue and 37th Street in Astoria, closed down in February 2008 to allow for the massive reconstruction project. But Rochelle Slovin, the Moving Image’s founder and director, said the museum would open its doors Jan. 15 with a full slate of film series, exhibits and artwork.

“This project is more than an expansion project,” she said. “It’s the total renovation of the museum. We’re becoming what we always dreamed of being.”

The upgrade has also doubled the size of the museum’s existing building as well as added a courtyard garden, an education center, on-site collection storage, a cafe and a museum store. It has expanded the cultural institution from 50,000 square feet to 97,700 square feet.

The Moving Image’s screenings and film series will now be held in an elevated 264-seat theater or a 68-seat screening room. The museum has also added a video screening amphitheater.

“You’re meant to feel like you’re in a spaceship,” said Architect Thomas Leeser of the elevated theater. “The elevated seats give the impression that you are floating. You are in the world of film, hovering above the real world.”

The museum’s inaugural screenings will include a slate of 20 newly restored rediscovered films, an avant-garde series, a showing of 1928’s “L’Argent,” a silent cinema festival and retrospectives of French director Alain Resnais, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker, Italian maestro Vittorio De Sica and American maverick Arthur Penn.

“A movie can be an artistic experience of the highest order, a life-changing experience, but only in the right format,” said David Schwartz, the museum’s curator. “The Moving Image is about to become one of the finest venues in the world for viewing films.”

The museum will screen films in super 8, 16mm and 35mm and through digital projection.

Its core exhibition will be “Behind the Screen,” which will comprehensively explore how films and television shows are created and marketed. The museum’s second floor will display 1,600 objects from its permanent collection, 15 interactive displays and commissioned artworks.

The museum will host several video art presentations early next year, including Martha Colburn’s “Dolls vs. Dictators,” a combination of puppetry, collage and paint-on-glass techniques, and Chiro Aoshima’s “City Glow,” an installation that incorporates Japanese scroll paintings, manga and anime.

Design features at the newly renovated building include a transparent glass entrance, a new lobby, a cafe with a sloping ceiling, a grand staircase and a rear facade comprised of aluminum panels.

Herb Schlosser, chairman of the board of trustees, said the renovation makes the Moving Image one of the largest film museums in the world.

“I’ve seen the impact film and television have had,” he said. “They have changed our world and the change has been profound. In little more than a century, the moving image has conquered the world. This museum can now achieve its full potential because of this expansion. It will be a great gift to its neighborhood in Astoria.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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