Empire (1964 film)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Empire is a silent, black and white film made in 1964 by Andy Warhol. It consists of eight hours and five minutes of continuous real time footage of the Empire State Building in New York City. Abridged showings of the film were never allowed; supposedly the very unwatchability of the film was an important part of the reason the film was created. However, a legitimate Italian VHS produced in association with the Andy Warhol Museum in 2000 contains only a 60 min extract. Its use of the long take in extremis is an extension of Warhol's earlier work the previous year with Sleep.

It was filmed on the night of July 25-26 from 8:06 p.m. to 2:42 a.m. from the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building, from the offices of the Rockefeller Foundation. It was shot at 24 frames per second but is projected at 16. The film begins with a totally white screen and as the sun sets, the image of the Empire State Building emerges. The floodlights on its exterior come on, the building's lights flicker on and off for the next 6 1/2 hours, then the floodlights go off again in the next to the last reel so that the remainder of the film takes place in nearly total darkness.

In 2004, "Empire" was added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress in recognition of the cultural, historical and aesthetic significance of the movie, as well as the risk of the original movie reel "no longer being preserved" (even though the Andy Warhol Museum's own preservation of the huge Warhol film/videotape catalogue is somewhat unique in the world of underground film).


Jonas Mekas once claimed that if everyone could sit through Andy Warhol's Empire there would be no more war. It is no overstatement to say that Empire makes bold use of pure real time; a static camera records the Empire State Building for eight continuous hours. Like Morgan Fisher's "Production Stills" (1970), Warhol's "Empire" (1963) exemplifies the structuralist film genre, but Empire is also the number one anti-film. Supposedly the very unwatchability of the film was an important part of the reason the film was created.


In 2005, the film was projected in its entirety on the wall of the Royal National Theatre in London.

See also

Conducting the first comprehensive study of films that do not move, Justin Remes challenges the primacy of motion in cinema and tests the theoretical limits of film aesthetics and representation. Reading experimental films such as Andy Warhol's Empire (1964), the Fluxus work Disappearing Music for Face (1965), Michael Snow's So Is This (1982), and Derek Jarman's Blue (1993), he shows how motionless films defiantly showcase the static while collapsing the boundaries between cinema, photography, painting, and literature.
Analyzing four categories of static film--furniture films, designed to be viewed partially or distractedly; protracted films, which use extremely slow motion to impress stasis; textual films, which foreground the static display of letters and written words; and monochrome films, which display a field of monochrome color as their image--Remes maps the interrelations between movement, stillness, and duration and their complication of cinema's conventional function and effects. Arguing all films unfold in time, he suggests duration is more fundamental to cinema than motion, initiating fresh inquiries into film's manipulation of temporality, from rigidly structured works to those with more ambiguous and open-ended frameworks. Remes's discussion integrates the writings of Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Tom Gunning, Rudolf Arnheim, Raymond Bellour, and Noel Carroll and will appeal to students of film theory, experimental cinema, intermedia studies, and aesthetics.

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