You can’t truly study modern art without studying film, and The Museum of Modern Art certainly leaves a significant amount of space for movies on the syllabus. Unknown to most tourists, and even some New Yorkers, the museum hosts 3 full size movie theaters. These include the underground ”Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters” (also known as Theaters 1 and 2), as well as “The Celeste Bartos Theater” (also known as Theater 3), which can be accessed from the 54th Street entrance, between 5th and 6th. Movie tickets are complementary with museum admission, however, they can also be purchased separately. This makes the venue great for day trips, matinees, or simply dinner and a movie.
No matter which path you choose, you will have plenty to talk about. The film selection is largely retrospective; they show classics both obscure and mainstream, domestic and international, but always classics. Series, such as “An Auterist History of Film,” are unified by formalistic qualities, however, series can also be unified by directory or country of origin. Works from the U.K., the Middle East, India, Japan, and tons of other countries can be caught within weeks of each other. While you won’t be able to catch many recent films, the theater is great for knocking off masterpieces you’ve always wanted to see on the big screen, but never had the chance to do so. And if oldies aren’t your thing, don’t fret: at the end of the year they screen all of the Oscar nominees to allow busy movie buffs to catch-up before the big show. Furthermore, the documentaries they show tend to deal with topical issues and are often new works.
The theaters are nothing out of the ordinary. There are no fancy seats or extravagant curtains; a simple grey hue covers the auditorium’s walls and square fold-out seats. Each screen is positioned above a stage with a podium and a microphone for when speakers come to discuss their work or for when curators come to introduce pieces. The space’s utilitarianism coincides with its mission; not to entertain with hot new films but to educate about the paradigmatic works of the past. Some of these films rarely get the chance to see the silver screen again, and it’s even better that they are projected at good quality with surround sound.
Museum admission is $22.50 for adults and $12.50 for students, however, film admission is only $12 for adults and $8 for students. If you will be frequenting the space, memberships are only $85 a year and give you admission to whatever films you wish to see. Even though the museum hosts a restaurant and cafe, there are no concessions. This isn’t too much of a bummer, as the venue is right by Times Square, so there are tons of places to eat. Also, it’s right down the street from the famous 53rd Street Halal cart. Overall, MoMA is a great venue for a quiet, intellectual evening or afternoon.
The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, D to 7th Ave, (212) 708-9400, www.moma.org, $12 tickets
- Bijan Samareh