A Brief History of the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam
What is the Eye Filmmuseum?
The Eye Filmmuseum (Eye Film Museum) is a museum dedicated to the moving image, in a cutting-edge architectural setting.
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Eye Filmmuseum History
Perched here on the northern banks of the River IJ, just opposite the main railway station, Amsterdam Centraal, is perhaps the city’s most iconic contemporary building, the Eye Film Museum. Its gleaming white exterior and futuristic, sculptural lines conjure many comparisons: some see a spaceship, others a praying mantis or a seagull about to take flight.
The vision of the Viennese firm Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, the Eye is more than just a striking piece of architecture. Like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the building was a game changer when it opened in 2012 – the first major project in the city’s revitalisation of a former industrial area along the northern IJ waterfront. The Eye became a prime attraction, luring both locals and tourists across the river and pioneering the development of Amsterdam Noord, which today is considered one the city’s coolest districts.
The building houses four movie theatres, exhibition spaces, a gift shop, and a restaurant with a riverfront terrace offering fantastic views of the IJ and Centraal Station beyond. The interiors are as remarkable as the façade, with walls and ceilings sloping to a marked degree – in fact, almost nothing inside is perfectly straight. The enormous main hall, known as the Arena, features a wide wooden staircase that functions more like a grandstand, where visitors can lounge and enjoy panoramic views of the river through the wall of windows.
The permanent exhibition on the ground floor showcases items from the Eye’s vast collection of film-related equipment and memorabilia. On view are multiple historical movie cameras and projectors, including a 19th-century mutoscope that plays Charlie Chaplin’s The Waiter to a single viewer. A 360-degree panoramic screen displays changing clips from nearly 100 films, and there’s also a green-screen area where you can star in your own movie scene.
The cinema shows thematic film programmes, often presented with Q&As hosted by film historians or those involved in the movie’s production, as well as new art house releases. All are screened in their original language, with subtitles in English or Dutch. The Eye Film Museum is sometimes called ‘the cinematic memory of the Netherlands’, and for good reason.
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