Literally carved out of a Lincoln Center parking garage, the new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center is close to completion and will soon open its doors at street level on West 65th Street in Manhattan.

The 17,500 square foot venue, located at the heart of Lincoln Center’s revitalized “Street of the Arts” between Broadway and Amsterdam, will feature two new art house cinemas (the 150-seat Francesca Beale Theater and more intimate 90-seat Howard Gilman Theater). The Center will also house a cafe and an amphitheater with a 152″ Panasonic Plasma screen (the largest of its kind on public display in the country). 

Designed by David Rockwell and Rockwell Group, in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Film Society’s new Film Center (shown above in a design rendering and right in a recent photo) is a state-of-the-art, interactive media complex that’s part of a striking Lincoln Center campus transformation that has taken place over the past five years. 

Andrew Rossi’s Page One: Inside The New York Times, a hit documentary from this year’s Sundance and SXSW film festivals, will open on both screens at the Film Center on June 17, 2011 ushering in a new era for the Film Society. The Beale and the Gilman theaters will screen new specialized film releases year round, with the Gilman also presenting special programs to complement ongoing series and events across the street at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. Lectures, panels and educational programs will round out offerings at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, presented at the new 75-seat digital amphitheater.

“When we talk about people having a full cultural experience, that means not just film screenings, but also live performances, projections and exhibitions of experimental works and installations better suited for the amphitheater than a movie screen,” Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director Rose Kuo recently told The New York Times, for an article published in the newspaper today. “We’ve built a physical space that, ironically, is going to allow us to expand beyond bricks and mortar.”

In December of 1991, the Film Society opened its flagship Walter Reade Theater, a 268 seat cinema named for the organization’s late chairman. The expansion transformed the Film Society from a group that presented just two major film festivals each year (the New York Film Festival and New Directors/New Films) into an organization hosting series programming year-round. Nearly twenty years later, the Film Society of Lincoln Center is  opening a new building that will mark another expansion for the group.

The Film Society’s move to program new specialized film releases will include the help of Bingham Ray, a co-founder of October Films who later lead United Artists. The former head of production at Sidney Kimmel Entertainment is on board as the Film Center’s first run strategy consultant, working with Film Society program director Richard Pena and the FSLC programming team.

The announcement of a theatrical release for Rossi’s Page One documentary comes at a unique moment, just one week after The New York Times implemented a digital pay wall strategy aimed at generating greater revenues during a dramatic moment of turmoil for the newspaper business. The film follows journalists David Carr, Brian Stelter and others inside the Media Desk of the newsroom as they report on the media industry.

Funding for the new Film Center came from a capital campaign that raised 90% of the $41 million construction costs with the support of Film Society Board of Directors, Lincoln Center and other private donors. Additional funds needed are being raised during the public phase of the campaign, which just launched with a seat naming initiative. 

The official opening of the Film Center on June 17 with Page One: Inside The New York Times will be preceded earlier in June by a multi-day launch celebration that will be announced soon.

“This is the first construction of a new art theater north of 14th Street in decades,” Rose Kuo told The Times. “We hope that what we are creating is a cultural destination, something that grows our community, that is welcoming and offers not only great films but the opportunity to gather and have a meal or a glass of wine.”

More information is available in a recent press release.