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Manhattan Film Fans Should Flock to Film Society of Lincoln Center's New Theater Complex; Will They?

by Anne Thompson
June 7, 2011 5:20 AM
1 Comment
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Thompson on Hollywood

New Yorkers can celebrate the imminent arrival of two new art-house cinemas in a city that has long been underserved by movie theaters. IndieWIRE reports on the Film Society of Lincoln Center's ribbon-cutting for the 17,500 square foot Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on 65th Street, which begins its opening festivities Wednesday with a weekend of free programming featuring Kevin Smith, Oliver Stone and an indie panel moderated by producer Ted Hope, before its official June 17 launch with Andrew Rossi’s hit fest circuit doc Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times (Magnolia), which couldn't be more timely with the changing of the guard at the NYT.

The trick for Film Society exec director Rose Kuo and her team is to inspire film fans to show up to see specialized films and special outside events like the IFP Independent Film Week at the sleek new venues designed by David Rockwell--the 150-seat Francesca Beale Theater and the 90-seat Howard Gilman Theater. There's also a gorgeous orange-benched amphitheatre housing America's largest (152 inch) Panasonic TH-152UX1 2-D and 3-D 2K and 4K Plasma Screen (one of only three in existence), which will focus on digital programs, lectures, and panels, and a small cafe, which will fulfill a neighborhood need in its own right. All three theaters are equipped with cameras to videotape guests, and the Beale theater (which has 2K digital as well as 35 and 16 mm capable projectors) actually can provide simultaneous digital subtitles.

Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood
Thompson on Hollywood


While the Film Society has made the Walter Reade into a modest success, it's still a struggle to fill it year-round. Some wonder if Film Society programmers (aided by consultant Bingham Ray, a step in the right direction) will be able to grow a large enough following to make the $40-million complex successful. The folks that go to the local Lincoln Plaza Cinema, for example, are an older art-house set.

It's a question of creating event programming, with speakers and added attractions. Los Angeles' American Cinematheque, for example, has gone viral with effective online marketing of the Egyptian and Aero Theaters, the former in Hollywood, the latter in Santa Monica, with widely divergent audiences. Gone are the days when people posted paper schedules on their refrigerators, or checked newspapers for theater listings. Kuo has added former indieWIRE editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez to run digital strategies and former IFC PR chief Courtney Ott to help reach out to New York cinephiles. Noah Cowan of Toronto's Bell Lighthouse Cinema complex has found that luring patrons to a brand-new cinema can be a challenge. He's booking indie films and luring a young audience, which is what the awkwardly named Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center will have to do. What are people going to actually call it? For starters, the Film Society may want to come up with a useful shorter name. (So far, folks are calling it "The Film Center" or "The Film Society.")

Vanity Faiir posted Jamie Stuart's videos documenting Lincoln Center's renovation and construction of the Film Center:

[Top photos of Film Society exec director Rose Kuo and indieWIRE critic Eric Kohn by Anne Thompson; bottom photo of from left to right: architect David Rockwell, FSLIC program director Richard Peña, executive director Rose Kuo, board president Dan Stern and board chairperson, Anne Tennenbaum by Brian Brooks, indieWIRE.]

1 Comment

  • Brian | June 8, 2011 4:22 AMReply

    There's only one theater I feel comfortable going to in Manhattan these days--the Ziegfeld. The sightlines are great. There's only one screen--and it's a big one. The seat backs don't lean back. And the bathrooms are close to the exit doors. That's all I ask.

    Now, if only they'd show more films I want to see. (The last one was TRUE GRIT.)

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