When we were kids, a cinema experience was only fun with a big bucket of popcorn and a huge Coca-Cola with ice. Watching commercials added some extra excitement! Today these guilty pleasures are somewhat attractive, but watching a film in an atmospheric setting, comfy chairs and maybe even a glass of champagne might seem even more enjoyable. There was no doubt that we at the Museeum would fall for movie theaters in museums. So if you travel the world and feel like watching a film, check out our list of unique cinemas in museums around the world, where you can watch a great selection of documentaries, art house and popular films.
When the weather is good nothing sounds more attractive than watching a film outside. We particularly love the fabulous rooftops of museums. Luckily these days you can do it in every major city from New York to Madrid to Moscow! In 1986, American sculptor Mark di Suvero founded Socrates Sculpture Park on an abandoned landfill and illegal dumpsite in Long Island City. The four-acre site is now a museum (the largest NYC outdoor space exhibiting sculpture) and public park that hosts exhibitions, arts education program, artist residency, film screenings, and the admission is free!
Katie Denny Horowitz, Socrates Sculpture Park Director of Development & Communications, comments:
"This year is the 18th annual festival, making Outdoor Cinema at Socrates Sculpture Park one of the longest-running open air film festivals in New York City. While our city hosts many outdoor movie series, this festival has always distinguished itself by its critically-acclaimed, international array of titles, each celebrating a different country or culture. This summer’s lineup, centered around the theme of “the river,” marks Socrates’ 30th anniversary and includes waterway-related films from China, Colombia, France, Germany, Iran, Peru, and the UK, among others. Attendance is often contingent on weather, so the range is broad — anywhere from 500 to 2,000 people. Last year, more than 8,000 attended overall."
The US is the leader in outdoor screenings in museums. You can catch films in San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Broad in LA and almost all major museums.
Moving on to the European continent. Impressive Madrid’s La Casa Encendida was designed by Fernando Arbós y Tremanti in 1911 and it goes without saying that a rooftop cinema was not envisioned in the architectural project; moreover the building was first used as a bank. Today it is a cultural center, holding contemporary art exhibitions, courses and workshops on art, social matters, culture, and the environment. We talked to Mónica Carroquino, La Casa Encendida’s Culture Coordinator:
"The film program has always been one of the main pillars of our cultural program. La Casa Encendida´s aim is the expansion of contemporary culture and we see cinema as one of the most interesting languages of artistic expression and a great way to explore the interests and concerns of the present moment. Our cinema program is both contemporary and experimental as our main idea is to offer our audience the possibilities to see the films they can´t see in any other place in the city. Every weekend since 2002 you can see the most interesting films of contemporary directors that have not been shown in Spain and experimental movies, documentaries, short films, video art, film essays and directors retrospectives. We are fully equipped to screen digital, 35mm, 16mm or Super 8. We also organize workshops of experimental cinema 100% Organic Cinema where the public can experiment and learn the processes and traditional techniques of film celluloid. But this doesn’t mean we are nostalgic at all, we try to find this balance between Avant-garde and its origins, we can go form Super 8 B-series movies to YouTube screenings in our Videplaylist sessions."
"We organize Q&A sessions and workshops, like the ones we did with American experimental director James Benning, the recently passed away Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, the French Olivier Laxe or the Portuguese Pedro Costa or the Belgian Agnès Varda."
"We give voice to interesting figures from any latitude: from European to South American or Asian directors; we usually invite them to La Casa to present their work and share it with a very interested audience. Sometimes we program films related to our exhibitions or music programs; sometimes we create exhibitions about film directors, most recently “Metamorfosis” was dedicated to the filmmakers: Starewitch, Švankmajer and the Quay´s Brothers; “Common Sense” was dedicated to documentary artist Luke Fowler. Every summer on our beautiful terrace we program eclectic and playful films. We decide on a subject and select a few movies about it that are screened under the stars every Sunday of July and August, a fascinating way to enjoy the long summer evenings and nights. This year we present cult films about witchcraft, the occult, sects and the desire to venture into other worlds a program we have called The Magnetic Terrace. It´s a magic moment that shows us how powerful cinema can still be," - Mónica Carroquino.
You can fully experience the power and magic of film in Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art rooftop. Garage launched its film program Garage Screen in 2012. The program brings audience the best of Russian and international filmmaking, including documentary, experimental, and feature films. When in 2015 Garage moved to its first permanent home in Moscow’s Gorky Park in the heart of the city, the museum broadened its educational and public program.
After a year in the new building, Garage expanded Garage Screen to the rooftop that became an open-air cinema equipped with cutting-edge technology: a 4K-projection system, a 15.2-by-6.2-meter screen, and the sophisticated Christie Vive Audio sound system. Garage summer film program includes both documentary and fiction films. Some of them are presented in Russia for the first time, for example, “Burden” by Timothy Marrinan and Richard Dewey and “Eva Hesse” by Marcie Begleiter. In the framework of Center Film Festival, Garage will hold premiere of the documentary “Life, Animated” by Roger Ross Williams in September. Visiting Garage this summer you can also catch prime international fiction films of the past years, for example “The Great Beauty” by Paolo Sorrentino and “Café Society” by Woody Allen in their original language. Screenings are very popular and a number of them (mostly art related films on Marina Abramovic, Peggy Guggenheim and Vivian Maier) will surely be repeated due to visitors' requests.
From August 25 to September 2 you can watch films on top the most recognizable Bonn landmark and one of the most visited museums in Germany - The Bundeskunsthalle that is officially known as Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is the fourth year the Bundeskunsthalle hosts rooftop screenings and this time they are even more special, because together with the film you can take a stroll by beautifully planted trees and flowers, among them copper beeches, oaks, aspens and robinias, and enjoy the flowerbeds awash with a veritable sea of blossoms. This beauty is an homage to Prince Hermann Ludwig Heinrich von Pückler-Muskau – German nobleman and an excellent landscape artist. So the screenings will be held in a beautiful setting. The program includes documentaries and the latest feature films like "Hail, Caesar!" and "A Hologram for the King".
Coming back to Madrid, we must mention The Cuartel del Conde-Duque created by the Baroque architect Pedro de Ribera that now houses Museum of Contemporary Art, Madrid where this year the yard is transformed into Cine Garden with trees, plants, chill out zones, cooking & cocktail shows, children's area, electronic brunches, vintage markets and of course outdoor cinema. The screenings are held for the second summer in a row and the main idea is to bring back the prestige and value of summer outdoor cinemas, making this experience a very special and classy.
Last year emphasis was on classic silent movies with Buster Keaton and other stars of the era with live bands accompanying the films. The screenings were expected to be of interest only for a small group of film enthusiasts, but ended up attracting more than 500 visitors each Sunday.
This year the program is more diverse: you can catch latest premieres, cinema for music lovers, blockbusters, and family films. Whatever your movie choice will be a fun Sunday is guaranteed until September 18.
Speaking about silent movies we can't help thinking of the great Charles Chaplin. He was born in London and throughout his life carried the bleak memories of his experience at the Lambeth Workhouse site that is currently occupied by The Cinema Museum. Here just a few steps from the Imperial War Museum you can see a collection of film memorabilia dating back to silent film era and of course attend film screenings.
The Cinema Museum program is as diverse as the film industry itself: you can watch classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and visit Wotever DIY Film Festival the next day.
We talked to Martin Humphries from The Cinema Museum about the initiative:
"The museum was established in 1984 and was located in Brixton storage, where we put together temporary touring exhibitions to tell the story of cinema. Back then we gave screenings at local cinemas. It was not until 1998 that we were able to open to the public an exhibition in our present building and have a regular screening program. We generally work with partners – sometimes they propose or bring the film, sometimes we jointly decide as in the case of the monthly Vito Project LGBT screenings. Sometimes we program our own series such as Kennington Talkies or Kennington Noir. The most popular events are The Q&A’s with people from the industry and the Silent Film screenings."
The Cinema Museum does not hold outdoor film series and you can visit it all year round. As well as NYC’s Museum of Modern Art film screenings, held in four fully equipped theaters ranging in capacity from 50 to 400 seats; each with first-rate film and video projection capabilities, ready to host red carpet premieres, film screenings, lectures and various events.
Watching a film in a museum is a treat, double the pleasure, as they say! We at the Museeum will continue visiting film screenings in various museums and since we prefer watching films under the stars, soon we will move to the other hemisphere, where the spring is coming. Did you visit outdoor screenings in Australian and South American museums last summer? Let us know and we will spread the word!