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Museum of the Moving Image preps for reopening

Natalie Portman 'Black Swan' puppet head joins exhibits

After nearly three years and $67 million in renovations, Gotham’s Museum of the Moving Image is ready for its Saturday reopening bash.

Last week the Queens facility (which has nearly doubled in size) was a flurry of activity as artists fine-tuned their sculptures and video installations, and construction workers performed finishing touches such as laying the museum’s name decals on its new facade.

“For the main theater, (architect) Thomas Leeser was really inspired by ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’?” David Schwartz, the museum’s program director, said as he showed off the stylish 267-seat screening room. “It’s our opening-day film.”

Upstairs, just inside the “Behind the Screen” exhibition, sculptor Gregory Barsamian was tinkering with the strobe light that illuminates his “Feral Font” — a kind of sculptural zoetrope that spins in time with strobe flashes and appears to be moving. Bar-samian held up the flickering light to show a drop of water that seemed to turn into a bomb and then a paper airplane that crashes into a tub of dishes.

The fine art is new, explained Schwartz, as are whole sections of the museum’s main exhibit. One new feature is an automated dialogue replacement booth similar to the kind used to overdub bad takes; here patrons can flirt with Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot” and hear their words come out of Tony Curtis’ mouth. The puppet version of “Exorcist” star Linda Blair (complete with spinning head) has been at the museum for years — now, it’s joined by a latex bust of Natalie Portman with a neck that stretches unnaturally, just like it did in “Black Swan.”

Rochelle Slovin founded the museum in 1981 and spearheaded its expansion, with the help of $50 million in funding from the city.

“We wanted to do all this because we were getting about 32,000 kids (a year) from schools,” said Slovin, who plans to retire from her role as the museum’s director in February. “We’d have a waiting list in February that extended through the end of the year, so we knew there was an audience. Now we can double the audience to about 60,000.”

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