The Smithsonian Institution has a scholarly interest in cinema. Cinema has been one of the most powerful forms of art since its birth in the late 19th century and the Smithsonian has a keen interest in preserving and displaying artifacts at several of its locations. Cinema has been used to inspire, inform, incite, and even demand introspection.
American Cinema artifacts can currently be found at the National Museum of American History, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Postal Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Air and Space Museum, and Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.
The Smithsonian Institution’s preservation of significant national and international stories reaches the public in different ways. Visitors can see artifact’s that capture their imagination and inspire them in their daily lives in groundbreaking exhibitions at its excellent facilities and through digital engagement in their homes. They can also connect with the history through film in its theaters. Regarding aerospace history, the movie grew up with the airplane and the spacecraft over the course of the twentieth century and both were, and still are, mediums for understanding our past, present, and future. The Smithsonian has captured that relationship by documenting the strong relationship between film and flight through the collection and interpretation of movie memorabilia and artifacts and sponsoring film festivals connected to humankind’s journey through air and space. The showing of new historical films, whether they are narrative or fiction, enhance the visitor experience and broaden the Smithsonian’s public dialogue that history has relevance and a place in our everyday lives. Those films enrich the experience of visitors wanting more stories and serve as an entertaining point of entry for those that were not interested in history before.
— Jeremy R. Kinney, Ph.D., Chair of Aeronautics, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Narrative fiction artifacts can be found in every museum at the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian Institution has long had a scholarly interest in science fiction, both literary and filmed, whether in movies or television. First and foremost, because popular culture is a significant American export, the study of film, television, toys, and other memorabilia remains a substantial area of research at several of the Institution’s museums.
Specifically, the National Air and Space Museum began collecting space science fiction objects even before the Museum’s building on the National Mall opened in 1976. In 1974, the Museum acquired the 11-foot-long studio model of the starship Enterprise that was used to film the original Star Trek television program, which aired on NBC between 1966 and 1969. In the 1990s, curators acquired thousands of pieces of science fiction memorabilia, which formed the basis for the newly-organized Social and Cultural History of Spaceflight collection. In the preservation of the history of real aviation and spaceflight achievements, artifacts that testify to how flight has been imagined form an important part of the story. Being able to supplement those visions with the showing of science fiction films enhances the Smithsonian Institution’s ability to connect visitors with these significant national and international stories.
— Margaret Weitekamp, Chair of Space History at the National Air and Space Museum
Science Fiction or "Sci-Fi" artifacts and articles are featured in the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and the National Museum of American History.
- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (Chantilly, VA): Airbus IMAX Theater lobby
Tickets may be purchased up when they are available online.
Yes. We do offer special rates for Smithsonian members. Click here for pricing information. Please note that tickets at the member rate may ONLY be purchased at a Smithsonian Theaters box office. Your membership card MUST be provided when purchasing member-rated tickets.
Each museum will open doors for after-hours screenings.
- Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center: enter via the main entrance
The Smithsonian offers free parking after 4 p.m. at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. A $15 per car entrance fee is required for all cars entering before 4 p.m. Please visit www.nasm.si.edu/parking for details.
- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center: Innovation Center (Silver Line); transfer to Fairfax Connector bus 983 with drop off in front of the museum.
- For additional metro routes, schedules, fares and assistance in planning your trip, visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website.
IMAX is the ultimate film experience. Large frame film is projected onto specially designed screens that are several stories high to produce some of the most stunning live-action and computer generated visual images recorded. The theaters are also equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system.
The Planetarium is a domed theater that uses digital technology to provide audiences with spectacular visualizations of the universe. The theater presents both pre-programmed and live presentations designed to share the wonders of the universe.
The following accessibility services for visitors with disabilities are available upon request; inquire at any theater Box Office for appropriate devices. The newly instituted feature length IMAX films presented at Smithsonian Theaters do not yet provide for additional accessible services. As the reformatting of these films becomes more common we will request that our distribution partners provide these additional services to our visitors for future films.
- Rear Window Captioning in English for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. Individual devices are provided.
- Amplification in English for visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. Headphones provided by the theater.
- Audio Description in English is provided for visitors who are blind or have low vision.
It varies by show. You will be instructed to reserve seats upon check out if applicable.
Yes, the National Air and Space Museum's Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater offers translations in French, German, Japanese and Spanish for "To Fly!"