April 9, 2013

Museum exhibitions come to movie theaters

Ula Ilnytzky / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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A film crew works on a film about an exhibit devoted to the portraiture of Edouard Manet at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.


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Employees of the Royal Academy of Art move a Manet painting at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. On April 11, films about art exhibitions from around the world will open in select movie theaters and performing arts centers in nearly 30 countries.


At The Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, people "are responding very strongly to having something like this," Executive Director Andre Perry said. His theater has been offering live and encore broadcasts of National Theatre productions for more than a year.

The nearby Marcus Sycamore Cinema presents the Met broadcasts, and two weeks ago featured an Encore performance of Riccardo Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini," an opera inspired by an episode from Dante's "Inferno."

"It's a smaller culture but a super vibrant one," Perry said of the arts crowd. "They're super enthusiastic and very positive about having the series."

The initiative appears to come at an opportune time for the city of 60,000 residents. The flood of 2008 shuttered the main building of the University of Iowa Museum of Art and a small number of its collection now is scattered among several venues while it rebuilds.

Museum director Sean O'Harrow said that while he supported the art exhibition broadcasts, he didn't want people to think it was a substitute for the real thing.

"A museum offers a three-dimensional experience. Seeing things on a screen for the most part is not," he said. "Seeing real objects in person is the most powerful experience you could possibly have."

The Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol, Calif., has been showing the Met HD series since its inception. Because of demand, it has expanded showings to two screens. Owner Ky Boyd said he expects the same kind of feedback from the art exhibit series.

"This is another great opportunity for people to experience blockbuster exhibitions," he said. "Typically, you wouldn't have a chance to see these unless you live in a radius within the museum or are traveling in that part of the world."

A handful of art and movie lovers interviewed in New York City weren't quite as enthusiastic.

Megan Orr, 17, of Davis, Calif., who was visiting the Museum of Modern Art, said she would check out an art exhibit via the movies only if there was no possible way she could visit for herself.

"Honestly, I think the appeal of going to an art museum is that you can get up close ... and it feels a lot more emotional. And I'm a huge fan of Manet. I don't think it would have the same exact draw for me," she said.

Justin Liebergen, 31, an actor from Manhattan, who had just stepped out of a multiplex cinema in mid-Manhattan, said he saw the idea as only for the art aficionado.

"I haven't thought, 'Oh, I wish I could go to this exhibit at this place on the planet somewhere' without physically wanting to go there," he said. "If I wanted to see a photo I would go online. Computers today have every image of every museum on the planet."

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