MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE– Astoria, Queens, New York

Ancient projectors

‘You’re from Australia?? What are you doing here?’ the waitress in the Queens Comfort Cafe wanted to know.

Well might she ask. Astoria, Queens is not a part of New York that attracts many visitors. It’s a place where New Yorkers live. Lots of them.

And one of them happened to have an affordable apartment to rent to visitors through the Air B&B website.

I’ll have more to report on the Air B&B experience in a later post, but for the moment, let’s have a look at Astoria.

It’s a lively, multi-cultural area, with the feel of a working-class suburb that is becoming gentrified. It reminded us of Marrickville in Sydney, only bigger, brighter and a lot busier.

The Golden Arches, Eyebrow threading, interesting haircuts – you get the idea of Astoria. Not glamorous, but anyone can feel comfortable here.

The Queens Comfort Cafe had only recently opened, and deserves to do well. Comfortable it certainly was, decked out in retro diner style, and serving excellent burgers. (They were the only ones we ate for the whole trip. Here in Queens it seemed only right to eat the local cuisine.)

A delightful bonus was meeting a waitress with whom I could discuss the Shetland Islands Folk Festival. She’d been there, I want to get there sometime.

We wish the Queens Comfort Cafe every success.

But I digress…

Apart from being a nice place to live, there at first appears little to attract visitors to Queens. However, thanks to Mevrouw T’s research on the excellent smartphone app ‘Wikihood’, we found a hidden treasure of a museum.

If you’re interested in the history of cinema, or the kids just want to see Yoda from Star Wars or a gun from Men in Black, we highly recommend a trip to this place.

Magic lanterns


Nowhere else have I ever seen such a collection of early film equipment. The interesting objects above are magic lanterns. Picture show men carried them on their backs from town to town, and impressed people by screening a few seconds of moving image. 

The mutoscope was really just a small advance on the technique of flipping the corners of a book to make the image move, but it was possible to put a minute or two of Charlie Chaplin film into the machine. The ones below are from 1899 and 1930 respectively.

Mutoscopes 1899, 1930.

The museum has excellent displays for kids on how film and television is made, with entertaining guides holding them enthralled with their demonstrations of how different music can completely alter the mood of a scene.

As a writer I was enthralled to see Larry David’s clumsy hand-written scripts for Seinfeld episodes. If I recall correctly, Seinfeld is set in Queens. We writers love to see how other writers struggle before nailing the masterpiece that looks so effortless when it’s finished.

Larry’s first efforts are a real mess. Apparently he’d then read them aloud to Jerry, who’d type up his versions of them, before they got on to the serious refinement process.

A clumsy photo of a clunky Seinfeld script. I love to see all that crossing out in red!

The kids (and I) could try our hands at animation, inspired by a clip of Terry Gilliam’s work with cut-outs on Monty Python. I was impressed with my efforts and it was surprising how fast a bit of simple animation can be achieved.

But naturally we really want to get on and see the relics from films we recognise, like the Star Wars characters…


Freddy Kruger’s hand from Nightmare on Elm Street was popular too…

Freddy's hand


I found three costumes I knew…

Quiz…can you identify them too? Answers at the bottom of the post.

Hints (L to R) – ancient sitcom, Woody Allen classic, action drama

Entry to the Museum of the Moving Image costs $12. Less for younger and older film buffs.

That’s a monocycle below, from Men in Black, who feature rather heavily in the displays.

Quiz answers: The Cosby Show, Annie Hall, Beverly Hills Cop.


Filed under Art

4 responses to “MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE– Astoria, Queens, New York

  1. Fascinating! Now that is a place we would’ve loved to visit too during our brief time in NYC. We had also booked our accommodation via Airbnb – as I recall, it was because you had mentioned your good experiences with the website, that we gave them a try.

    • Glad to have been of help. Air BnB worked well for us, and took us to parts of the city we would never have otherwise considered. The accommodation is variable, as you would expect, though all our experiences of it have been good so far, and we’ll keep using it.

  2. Pingback: Off the Griddle with Ihopapotamus at…Queens Comfort! | So You Think You Can Pancake

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