Off the Island: The Museum of the Moving Image


Published: October 11, 2007

When someone mentions Astoria, the first thing that usually comes to mind is: Greek. While the neighborhood used to be known solely for its heavy presence of Greek culture, it is now a multi-cultural center of learning. Located there is The Museum of the Moving Image, a home for anything and everything to do with the moving image.

Only three stops from Manhattan on the N train, the Museum of the Moving Image is a destination that makes Queens even more alluring than just being home to the New York Mets. The focus of the museum is on the history of all moving images and the developments that have been made through the years. For those who are passionate about film or television, checking out the main galleries and screenings that are held at the museum is a necessity.

The main gallery, Behind the Screen, explores the dynamics that are involved in the process of making a film. Through artwork and visual demonstrations, the spectator is shown that there is much more than what meets the eye. It is easy to not think about the work that goes into making a movie, but this exhibit explores how film has developed into the art form that it is today.

The museum has an extensive artifact collection of about 83,000 pieces that range from the chariot in “Ben Hur” to a puppet of Yoda from “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” There are collections of television sets, props from films and costumes that were worn by actors such as Dustin Hoffman in “Little Big Man.” There are even displays of film-related merchandise such as lunch boxes and magazines that reflect the impact a work had on society.

While in Behind the Screen, there are other entertaining things to check out. By using the Automated Dialogue Replacement, you can put your voice into a movie like “The Wizard of Oz.” Using the Magic Mirror, you can put yourself into the costumes used in “The Ninja Turtles” or “Saturday Night Fever.” You can even take a short film of yourself that is made into 24 freeze frames to create your very own flipbook version of a movie right before your eyes.

The other current gallery exhibition is Digital Play, which is truly unique and fun at the same time. It takes a different spin on the concept of action and motion which is seen through video games, music and dance. Patrons can play the video games free of charge and get a better understanding of the history and development of video games over the years.

Film screenings are also a big part of the museum, especially since the neighborhood is having a revival thanks to the reopening of Astoria Kaufman Studios. Historically known for being where the Marx Brothers filmed, Astoria Kaufman Studios, which is down the block from the museum, was also the studio used for filming the “Bourne Ultimatum” and “Sesame Street.” From Oct. 20 to Nov. 11, the museum will hold a special series featuring Andy Warhol’s films. Warhol, mainly known for his Pop Art of the 1960s, made innovative movies as well. Over 30 of his films will be screened in this retrospective.

Many classic television serials take place in Tut’s Fever Movie Palace, which has Egyptian décor that is fit for a pharaoh. The small theatre was modeled after the 1920s movie palace. Currently screening there until Oct. 27 is the 1940s show “The Adventures of Red Ryder.”

Since admission to the museum is only $7.50 for college students, and free on Fridays after 4p.m., you save enough money to be able to experience the taste of Astoria. Island is a Greek restaurant that is the creation of former Top Chef contestant Josie Smith Malave. It’s best to share a few appetizers such as the crab cakes, a spread of dips, calamari or the house salad, rather than have one meal that lacks variety. Located on 36th Street between 35th and 36th Avenues, it is only two blocks from the museum and is the ideal place to get a Mediterranean flavor with some tzatziki sauce on the side. After that, there are countless cafes all around where you can  indulge in some dessert.

Visiting the museum at any time from Wednesday to Sunday and then going to dinner at Island would not only be a nice evening, but an escape from the familiarity of Manhattan. The combination of film (and television) plus a taste of Greece is enough of a reason to cross the East River and enjoy what Queens has to offer.