The Amusement Project: Disappearing Sites of Cinema Exhibition in New York
Between 2001 and 2004, The Museum of Modern Art’s Film Study Center mounted a project to document the architectural evidence of 20th-century motion picture exhibition as it survived in the five boroughs of New York City. Following leads provided by local cinema historians Ken Klemann and Cezar Del Valle, and with the guidance of Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator in MoMA’s Department of Film, photographer John Harris shot over 1,500 images, largely as 35mm color slides, from which he has compiled this five-part slideshow installation.
Harris explains: "The looped projections are composed thematically, illustrating a cross-section of the five boroughs, street life in front of buildings, what the theaters had become, and one piece profiling the St. George and the Paramount on Staten Island, the Bushwick in Brooklyn, and the Bunny in Harlem, at 147th Street. The Bunny opened in 1915 and lasted close to 90 years as a theater. When I revisited the site in 2011 to conclude our coverage of its transformation, I found that it had gone from a theater to a converted and defaced structure with little left to indicate its original identity. We had struck at the right time."
The 10 years since these photographs were taken have been particularly volatile. In many cases, the buildings and empty shells of buildings pictured here are now gone.