g The Film Panel Notetaker: Visiting the Visual Arts Theater

Monday, February 02, 2009

Visiting the Visual Arts Theater

The School of Visual Arts will officially open its brand new screening facility this spring in the heart of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. A culmination of a nearly 40-year vision by its director Gene Stavis, the Visual Arts Theater will be a world-class cultural center and laboratory for the visual arts providing a state-of-the-art cinema experience. This afternoon, fellow notetakers A.M. Peters, Liz Nord and I took a little field trip over to the theater where we were very honored and privileged to be escorted by Stavis on a sneak peek tour of the theater, which is currently under renovations. Login to Facebook and check out the pictures from our visit here.

The Visual Arts Theater, formerly Chelsea West Cinemas and several other incarnations before that, is being redesigned and refurbished by the celebrated Milton Glaser and other architects and artists. Unlike any other New York theater, it will feature an exterior 40-foot wall that will be transformed four times a year into a showcase for cultural events, works of art and social causes. Its sheltering marquee will be topped with Glaser’s kinetic sculpture that comes to life every hour on the hour.

The theater will have a stylish and elegant new lobby, perfect for receptions, that leads to two large auditoriums (a 495-seater and a 280-seater) both equipped with high-tech equipment with crystal clear projection in all formats including 70mm, 35mm, 16mm and D-Cinema, all in Dolby surround sound as projected by the world’s best projectionist, James Bond (not 007), who also designed the projection at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. The D-Cinema equipment in both theaters can handle multiple formats of HD content, including 3D digital, live video feeds and multiple inputs from PC or Mac computers, and the entire facility is equipped with WiFi Internet access.

Both theaters have newly-installed lecture stages, perfect for film panel discussions (and a bastion for film panel notetaking), presentations, and Q&As. Modest performances can also be staged using professional theatrical lighting and dimming and full multimedia capabilities.

The three basic uses of the facility will be for:

  • Students, faculty and alumni of SVA
  • A professional presentation facility for original programming
  • A facility available for rental to outside groups

There will be no commercial runs at the theater, but it will be available for premieres, private parties and other events. Its rental package is unique in that it includes everything from the theater’s management, projectionists, technicians, security and maintenance, altogether in one package, where other theaters charge extra for these services.

The Visual Arts Theater already plans to house a number of some of New York’s favorite film festivals including the Gen Art Film Festival and NewFest.

While the theater is still under renovation, some programs, lectures and classes will take place there including a live satellite feed from the TED conference in California this Thursday at 7pm.

Stavis said he expects to have an official opening ceremony on the first sunny day this spring. In this day and age when it’s hard enough to even keep a theater open, Stavis is very fortunate and happy to see his vision come to fruition. New York has something really spectacular to look forward to this spring and beyond.

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