Herbert Schlosser ’49 knows show business. In a media career that spanned three decades, Schlosser had a hand in some of television’s greatest successes. As the president and CEO of NBC, he launched Saturday Night Live, secured broadcast rights for the Olympics, and helped create the A&E Network. He also played a crucial role in the early development of made-for-TV movies, satellite broadcasting, and home video.
But at age 86 — and only recently retired from a consulting post at Citigroup — Schlosser still finds that it’s “fun being part of something new.”
Schlosser currently is working on behalf of the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, which completed a major expansion and renovation in 2011 and has more changes on the horizon. The site of the museum has undergone continual reinvention, from its origins as the East Coast home of Paramount Pictures, to its World War II appointment as the Army’s Signal Corps Photographic Center, to its 1970s rehabilitation and addition to the National Register of Historic Places. The museum opened in 1988, and today it maintains more than 130,000 artifacts of moving-image history and screens more than 400 films a year in its three theaters.
Schlosser has served as chairman of the board of trustees for most of the museum’s history. “I’ve seen it develop at the same time that the visual media have changed,” he said. “Who would have thought 20 years ago that you’d be able to watch a film on a telephone? A moving image now comprises a lot of things.” Schlosser said that what sets the museum apart from other arts institutions is that “so many of these separate media converge.” The Museum of the Moving Image exhibits new media, including video games and interactive art, alongside more traditional relics of film and television history.
The main film theater at the Museum of the Moving Image. (Photo: Peter Aaron/Esto, courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image)
Partly because of the breadth of this curatorial vision, the museum outgrew its original facility. Schlosser drew on his experience and contacts in the entertainment industry to lead the fundraising effort for a $67 million expansion. The project, completed in January 2011, nearly doubled the size of the museum and constructed a new main theater with state-of-the-art projection technologies and a futuristic Yves Klein blue interior.
The museum is also an important fixture in Astoria’s ongoing economic development. In 2013, the street between the museum and its next-door neighbor, the historic (and booming) Kaufman Astoria Studios, will be closed, gated, and converted into an outdoor backlot, transforming the block into a Hollywood-style studio campus. “It’ll become a destination site, not just for the studio or the museum, but for both,” said Schlosser.
In the meantime, Schlosser remains one of the Museum of the Moving Image’s most vocal champions. He frequently visits the site with potential donors. Once there, he said, it’s an easy sell: “You have to let them see it and get bowled over by it. Whenever they walk in that door, it’s really quite spectacular.”
Vicky Gan ’13 is a history major from Baltimore, Md.