Empire is a 1964 American black and white silent film written, produced, and directed by Andy Warhol. It consists of eight hours and five minutes of continuous slow motion footage of the Empire State Building in New York City. Abridged showings of the film were never allowed, and supposedly the 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 an extract of 60 minutes. Its use of the long take in extremis is an extension of Warhol's earlier work the previous year with Sleep. Warhol employed Rob Trains to be the projectionist for a screening of the film. Trains miscalculated and mixed the order and speed of the reels for the eight-hour movie. After a positive review in The New York Times, Warhol actually liked the "mistake" and employed Trains for the entire summer.
In 2004, the Library of Congress selected the film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry.
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 6½ 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.
The film was shot with Warhol directing and filmmaker Jonas Mekas working as cinematographer. During three of the reel changes, filming recommenced before the lights in the filming room were switched off, making the faces of Warhol and Mekas momentarily visible in the reflection of the window each time.
Empire was filmed on the night of July 25–26, 1964 from the 41st floor of the Time-Life Building, from the offices of the Rockefeller Foundation. The film was shot at 24 frames per second but is projected at 16 frame/s, so that, even though only about 6 hours and 36 minutes of film was made, the film when screened is about 8 hours and 5 minutes long.
In 2005, the film was projected in its entirety on the external wall of the Royal National Theatre's fly tower in London. It was also screened in its entirety on Saturday December 4, 2010, at the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with live musical accompaniment, by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Ackland Art Museum and Interdisciplinary Program in Cinema. It was also projected in its entirety on Saturday May 11, 2013, at the MIC (Museo interattivo del Cinema) in Milan, Italy.
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 reels "no longer being preserved" (despite the Andy Warhol Museum's preservation of the huge Warhol film/videotape catalogue, unique in the world of underground film). In 2007, website Nerve selected Empire as one of "The Thirteen Greatest Long-Ass Movies of All Time".