Whether you’re an obsessive movie buff or you just want to learn more about the art form, The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria offers something for everyone.
The Moving Image, which reopened in January 2011 after a massive $67 million expansion, hopes to teach the public about film and television history, and it’s the only museum in the country dedicated to this subject matter. A $12 ticket allows visitors to see two floors of over 1,400 artifacts in the incredible Behind the Screen exhibition, where the minimalism of the plain white walls and subdued blue lighting calls to mind classic science fiction films.
In this exhibit, guests experience the evolution of the moving image from the 19th century until today, taking a look at early cameras, television production equipment from the 1960s, and even the very first instruments used to record sound. It’s one thing to read about this machinery in a book, but it’s another to witness the astonishing transformation in person.
Beyond the technical aspects of a Hollywood production, the museum also boasts an impressive collection of objects straight from famous film sets. On permanent display are dozens of props to excite any movie fan, such as an actual Yoda puppet from The Empire Strikes Back, an animatronic of Regan from The Exorcist, and the mold used to make Robin Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire mask. Unlike most of the city’s popular museums, the Moving Image is modest enough that patrons leave feeling complete and without having been overwhelmed.
That doesn’t mean there’s no reason to return, though. In addition to the permanent fixtures, there are also temporary installations replaced every few months, including the recent Jim Henson’s Fantastic World featuring drawings, storyboards and genuine puppets of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear. Where else could you see the real Kermit the Frog for such an affordable price?
The Moving Image’s importance extends beyond its educational value. It also serves as a bastion of film appreciation, as the curators host live events, panels, and Q&As nearly every single week.
On October 27th, for example, the museum held a screening of the 2004 film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, followed by a discussion with production designer Mark Friedberg and music supervisor Randall Poster. The auditorium was packed wall to wall with Anderson aficionados donning Steve Zissou hats and answering trivia questions about Wes Anderson’s filmography. It was a tremendous celebration, yet the environment was just intimate enough that Friedberg and Poster were both available to chat after the night concluded.
Events like these are the norm around the Moving Image, and each one is free to members and is included with the purchase of a regular ticket for everyone else. Members are also frequently entitled to screenings of movies that have not yet been released. On October 29th, the museum played the new movie The Broken Circle Breakdown, which did not open officially until November 1st. Director Felix Van Groeningen was in attendance and available for questions. Though advanced film premieres can be found elsewhere in the city, not many locales offer them so consistently and in such a beautiful screening room.
This magnificent 267 seat theater will instantly make any movie enthusiast feel right at home. Its felt-paneled walls allow for optimal sound, and the venue is one of the few in the nation capable of showing everything from 16mm to 70mm film prints. Most theaters aren’t even capable of screening a regular 35mm print anymore, with the industry transitioning into digital projection. In an age when local cinemas that truly care about film preservation are being substituted for large, flavorless multiplexes, the Moving Image is like a godsend.
One gets the sense that everyone at the Moving Image, from the curators to the guests, truly cares about film, and in that way it’s extremely important and refreshing. For less than you’d spend on a movie ticket and a popcorn, the Moving Image offers two full floors of iconic memorabilia and technology, access to exhibits that are constantly being updated, and free entry into screenings attended by the industry’s best and brightest. For lovers of film looking for something to do in the city, the Moving Image is hard to beat.