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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Big Screen Gem

by Adriana Leshko

The Godfather. Photo courtesy Photofest
The BAM Harvey has long been one of the most unique and beloved theaters in New York, hosting the likes of Cate Blanchett, Alan Rickman, and Fiona Shaw. Starting this June with the kickoff of BAMcinemaFest there is a new star in the house: a 35-foot wide, 19-foot high movie screen gifted by Joseph and Diane Steinberg, Brooklyn philanthropists with a long relationship with BAMcinématek. The Steinberg Screen will be the largest 5D screen in all of Brooklyn, with superlative sound to match: 42 permanently mounted surround-sound loudspeakers are fixed to the side and rear walls of the theater, and adjustable acoustic panels have been added to provide a high-end, first-run cinema experience for all patrons.

It will also be among the city’s only venues expressly tailored for live arts as well as cinema, a kind of cultural one-two punch. In short, BAM is setting the stage for a movie-going experience as extraordinary as the setting in which it will take place: a turn-of-the-century vaudeville house turned movie palace whose current iteration as a home for world-class theater was the result of a great bond between two legends: when director Peter Brook sought a suitable BAM home for his nine hour English-language version of The Mahabarata, inspiration struck former BAM President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein on his daily walk past a boarded up old movie theater at 651 Fulton Street (see timeline, below). The rest was performing arts history.

And now, back to the future. “After we launched the BAM Rose Cinemas as well as BAMcinématek, our repertory film program, to tremendous success circa 1997,” says BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins, “we learned that the BAM audience is also a film audience, in a big way. The Steinberg Screen in many ways is our gift to them, a space unlike any other in Brooklyn which will enable us to do more, whether it be host an entire orchestra to accompany a film with live music, or throw a film premiere in one of the most beautiful spaces in the city.” (Hint: Ryan Gosling this way comes). With plans for concessions that incorporate local purveyors, tapping into the flourishing Brooklyn food scene, the Steinberg Screen at BAM Harvey is sure to become a destination for everyone from film connoisseurs drawn by innovative, site-specific BAMcinématek programming to locals looking to see the latest 3D summer smash in a blockbuster setting.

The Steinberg Screen makes its official debut on June 19, the opening night of BAMcinématek’s annual BAMcinemaFest, with the highly anticipated New York debut of director David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, starring Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, and Rooney Mara, with director and cast in attendance. From June 29—July 3, it will be the exclusive East Coast premiere venue for Hitchcock 9, a historical series of digital restorations of the nine surviving silent films from the master of suspense, accompanied live by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a chamber quintet dedicated to reviving the silent film tradition. “Hitchcock 9 is the ultimate example of an already incredible series that will be immeasurably enhanced by playing on the Steinberg Screen at the BAM Harvey,” says BAMcinématek Director Gabriele Caroti. “To have the quintet play in a space designed for live performance, and to see these films in a space that existed when they were originally made, has incredible emotional and artistic resonance.”

Another summer series, the upcoming Big Screen Epics, speaks to every movie lovers desire to view larger-than-life stories like Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather Part I & 2, and others, the way they were intended to be seen—communally and on a canvas worthy of their scope. “It seems that these days screens and screening rooms are getting smaller and smaller,” notes BAMcinématek’s program director Almozini. “But the new Steinberg Screen will be one of the largest in Brooklyn. I think that fits perfectly with BAM’s track-record as a trailblazer regarding all forms of art.”

Adriana Leshko is a publicity manager at BAM. Reprinted from June 2013 BAMbill.


1904 / The Majestic Theater, with 1700 seats, opens with a stage production of The Wizard of Oz

1904—33 / Many theater productions were presented at the Majestic, including some being considered for Broadway

1945—68 / Changing fortunes led the Majestic to present vaudeville, burlesque, film, and pornography

1968 / The Majestic closes

1987 / BAM President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein sought a venue for Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata, noticed the boarded up Majestic, and entered through the second-story window via a ladder. Brook loved it, and it was renovated to hold 874 seats by Hugh Hardy and opened in time for the 1987 Next Wave Festival

1987 to present / Numerous popular and critically lauded productions are presented at the theater, including three seasons of The Bridge Project, Streetcar Named Desire (with Cate Blanchett), King Lear (with Ian McKellen), and Paul Simon’s The Capeman

1988 / 651 Arts was created, focusing on culture of the African diaspora

1999 / Upon Lichtenstein’s retirement, the theater is renamed the BAM Harvey

2012 / New seats and stage entrances are added

2013 / The Steinberg Screen is installed, expanding the house to cinema capability, including 5D


  1. This is really super, but what does 5D even mean? Mind Blown!

  2. 5D means it can screen 2D AND 3D movies. Mind pieced back together!


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