Museum of the Moving Image: Gregory Barsamian’s “Feral Fount,” a moving sculpture whose pieces become an animation under stroboscopic lighting, is part of the permanent exhibition “Behind the Screen.” Damon Winter/The New York Times

“Why have a Museum of the Moving Image at all?” is the question that readily comes to mind before visiting the new, improved, expanded incarnation of this venerable institution in Astoria, Queens, which reopens its doors on Saturday after a $67 million face-lift that might even put Hollywood cosmeticians to shame.

Yes, the fact that the Marx Brothers’ antics and Rudolph Valentino’s gaze were committed to celluloid by Paramount Pictures in this building makes a certain claim on cinematic attention. And yes, the museum’s screenings have given it much cachet with cinéastes. And sure, the making and marketing of movies are enterprises that in their importance and engrossing details deserve the kind of full-scale treatment they get here. But that would make it a museum of cinema — a very different thing.

Why “moving image”? Why keep enlarging that subject the way the museum’s founding director, Rochelle Slovin, did in opening the institution in 1988, stirring television, video games, video artwork and digital imaging into the mix?

And with this latest expansion of the museum’s size to nearly 100,000 square feet, its doubling of classroom facilities to host 60,000 students a year, its new 68-seat screening room and 267-seat theater (which during the next six weeks of celebrations will present newly restored film classics and contemporary movies), the institution’s wide-angle view is even more fully embraced. The museum, housed in a building owned by the city, which supplied nearly $55 million of the renovation costs, also has large public ambitions for its vision.


Edward Rothstein
New York Times