With dignitaries on hand and a big ribbon cut by its namesake Thursday, Elinor Bunin Munroe officially opened the Film Society of Lincoln Center's anticipated new Film Center in New York's Upper West Side. While U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand looked on along with architect David Rockwell, the event marked the official christening of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, which will celebrate its launch with free events next weekend ahead of its official June 17 roll out with the Sundance 2011 doc, "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times."
Invited guests surveyed the $40 million spanking new facility yesterday afternoon (Thursday), which includes the 144 seat Francesca Beale Theater, the 87 seat Howard Gilman Theater as well as an 87 seat "amphitheater," complete with a 152-inch "super high-def" flat screen set, which organizers say will be used for a cross-range of programming. Carved out of a former parking structure and "low-grade" offices on W. 65th Street, the building is part of the broader redevelopment of the 16-acre Lincoln Center campus.
"I didn't realize at first how extraordinary the expansion was going to be," noted Rockwell who sat in the amphitheater below the large Panasonic flat screen, which is only one of three in the world. Along with FSLIC executive director Rose Kuo, program director Richard Peña, and Film Society board members Dan Stern and Anne Tennenbaum, the group touted the organization's expansion beyond its current year-round programming space at the Walter Reade Theater across the street, saying it will re-orient the city's film scene, which typically gravitates toward downtown Manhattan.
"For me the key word is flexibility," noted Peña. "Having the Walter Reade is great, but by having having additional theaters, we can have first runs as well as video art, and other installations. We've been able to do this already, but with the expanded venues we'll be able to do them more frequently."
The film center will offer a "complete cultural experience," according to FSLIC with first-run films as well as programs spotlighting emerging digital technologies and digital art in the amphitheater as well as lectures, panels, live performances and midnight events. Kuo also noted that the film center will host programming with schools to further the Film Society's film education initiatives and the site will become the new location for other established NYC film events, in addition to the numerous year-round events organized by the organization.
"We are very happy to bring IFP Independent Film Week back home in the fall and excited about our new partnership with NewFest [NYC's LGBT Film Festival set for July]," Kuo said.
Then known as the IFFM, the Independent Feature Project's film market originated 33 years ago as a sidebar of the New York Film Festival, the Film Society's premiere event, which also takes place in September. "We hope that the film center expands our outreach in programming," added Kuo. "We began that with expanding our staff, including [former indieWIRE Editor-in-chief] Eugene Hernandez, [October Films co-founder] Bingham Ray who is programming the venues and Courtney Ott who is our head of publicity. We're very lucky to have so many film enthusiasts on our staff."
Kicking off the Film Center's debut are a host of free events June 10 - 12. Highlights include a marathon of New York Film Festival opening night films Friday night and continue with more screenings, restorations, panels and more. Guests who will be making appearances over the weekend include Kevin Smith, Jason Reitman, Mike Nichols, Oliver Stone, Paul Schrader and Fredric Jameson.
For information and a full slate of events and details on how to obtain free tickets, visit the Film Society of Lincoln Center's website.