Our History

America’s preeminent film presentation organization, the Film Society of Lincoln Center was founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, to recognize and support new filmmakers, and to enhance awareness, accessibility and understanding of the art among a broad and diverse film-going audience.

Timeline:

September 10, 1963
First New York Film Festival opens with Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel in Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall.

March 1968
Film-in-Education is instituted as part of Lincoln Center’s education services.

May 9, 1969
The Film Society of Lincoln Center was established as a separate entity in the Lincoln Center complex. The stated aim of this organization was to contribute to the recognition of the importance of film as a leading artistic form and a vital medium for aesthetic and social expressions.

Summer 1970
Movies in the Parks is created: independent short films projected in parks in all five boroughs of the city. Short films by independent filmmakers were projected outdoors throughout the summer in the parks of all five boroughs of New York City. This program continued until 1976.

May, 1971
Movies for Kids is established and presented in Alice Tully Hall.

March 3, 1972
New Directors/New Films, in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, begins; all screenings take place at MoMA.

April 4, 1972
Salute to Charlie Chaplin at Avery Fisher Hall — this was the first of the Film Society’s gala tributes.

November, 1972
The Film Society’s membership program is initiated.

March 1974
The Film Society acquires Film Comment magazine.

November, 1974
The Board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts approves the status of the Film Society as an official constituent.

December 9, 1991
The Walter Reade Theater opens. First film screened is On the Town, part of series titled Great Beginnings.

January, 1992
The New York Jewish Film Festival begins at Walter Reade Theater, being the first major series to play.

April, 1993
New York African Film Festival begins its collaboration with the Film Society.

March, 1995
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema begins in the Walter Reade Theater.

June, 1995
Human Rights Watch Film Festival comes to the Walter Reade Theater.

January, 1996
Dance on Camera begins in the Walter Reade Theater.

February, 2000
Film Comment Selects begins at the Walter Reade Theater, selected by the staff of Film Comment magazine.

June, 2000
Open Roads begins at the Walter Reade Theater, bringing new Italian films to New York.

2002
The Film Society decides to expand its exhibition capabilities as part of the Lincoln Center Redevelopment Project.

2003
Negotiations begin with Lincoln Center for the acquisition of space at 144 West 65th Street in order to build two additional film theaters.

March 2003
New Directors/New Films screens at both MoMA and the Walter Reade Theater.

September 25, 2009
47th New York Film Festival opens in a newly redesigned Alice Tully Hall.

July, 2010
New York Asian Film Festival begins at the Walter Reade Theater.

June 1, 2011
Ribbon cutting to mark the opening of the Film Society’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center—Francesca Beale Theater, Howard Gilman Theater, and Amphitheater

June 17, 2011
The Film Center opens to the public, with Page One: Inside the New York Times.

July 2014
The Film Society introduce Sound + Vision, an annual music documentary series that celebrates the enduring and mutually enriching relationship between cinema and music.

April 2014
The Film Society introduces Art of the Real, an annual nonfiction showcase founded on the most expansive possible view of documentary film.

February 2015
The Film Society announces a new education initiative focused on bringing film into the classroom through screenings, discussions, and production, in order to bolster visual literacy learning in neighborhood elementary schools.