As the Museum’s summer intern for the film department, one of my tasks was to update the ﬁlm database. With more than 10,000 entries, the database serves as a record of every ﬁlm the MFAH has ever shown, from 1938 to the present day. It’s a wonderful reflection of the Museum’s dedication to celebrating the history of cinema.
In the process, I compiled some trivia from the database to demonstrate how useful it is for gathering information—and how interesting the Museum’s history is!
What is the ﬁrst ﬁlm the MFAH ever showed?
Trick question! When the film program launched to the public on January 3, 1938, the Museum showed six ﬁlms. The lineup was called “The Development of Narrative,” and it featured The Great Train Robbery; A Trip to the Moon (Le voyage dans la lune); Wash Day Troubles; Queen Elizabeth (Les amours de la reine Élisabeth); The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots; and Faust.
What ﬁlm has been screened the most at the Museum?
The Red Balloon (Le Ballon rouge) has played here 18 times between November 6, 1971, and January 6, 2008. It was also featured this year as part of the Museum’s Spring Festival.
What is the longest ﬁlm the Museum has ever shown?
The landmark marathon film Shoah (parts 1 and 2) clocks in at about 10 hours. Yes, there was an intermission.
Next year, the MFAH adds a new screening space: the Lynn Wyatt Theater in the new Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. What was the ﬁrst movie shown in the current screening space, Brown Auditorium Theater?
Anatomy of a Murder screened on January 23, 1974. Interestingly enough, it was just shown again as part of this summer’s Jazz on Film series, right after my internship started!
Updating the database has allowed me to understand the Museum’s commitment to showing compelling, thought-provoking, and diverse ﬁlms. I can’t wait to see how programming is expanded and challenged with the addition of the new theater in 2020 and beyond.