NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Sixty years ago, the organizers of the first New York Film Festival held their breath as what was then seen as a bold experiment began.
Then, just as it is now, the location was Lincoln Center.
The world of film and our city has changed a lot since 1963, but the goal of the festival remains the same: to celebrate cinema by showing the best movies the world has to offer.
This year, 45 countries are represented at the festival, which starts Friday night and runs for the next two weeks.
If the opening night film is any indication, local movie fans are in for a real treat.
The new film from Todd Haines is called, "May December," which takes its name from the expression commonly used to refer to a relationship between a young person and someone much older.
Julianne Moore plays a former teacher who went to jail for seducing one of her students.
Twenty years later they are married with children. Then, an actress played by Natalie Portman arrives to study the older woman for her next movie role.
This is a story clearly inspired by the case of the late Mary Kay Letourneau who became a tabloid target after she engaged in a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old.
"May December" is just the first of many that will be shown there.
The titles of the movies reflect the elegance and excitement of who and what will be featured at this year's New York Film Festival.
Films about real people. A musical "Maestro," a builder of fast cars named "Ferrari," and "Priscilla" the wife of the late Elvis Presley.
There's a picture about "Hitmen," and "The Killer" from director David Fincher, who is just one of the masters of cinema represented.
"We've always been a festival that attempts to sum up the year in cinema: to try and make the case for why cinema is a vital art form," said Dennis Lim, Artistic Director.
In past years, the stars have come out here to launch films that went on to win Oscars, but the ongoing actors strike means a less stellar event.
"Obviously, the red carpets are going to feel different for some films," Lim said.
Some, but not all of those behind "Priscilla" struck a deal with the actors union that will allow its stars to promote the movie made by Sophia Coppola.
"The point of this film was to tell a story that hadn't been told often, and in counterpoint to the Elvis story which has been told countless times," Lim said.
That's just one of 110 films showing in all five boroughs.
"So how long do we have to do this for? Oh, we have to build a very strong connection," the trailer for "Maestro" says.
The movie about the late Leonard Bernstein will be screened in the same room where he enjoyed some of his greatest triumphs.
"And, we're really excited to be screening at Geffen Hall, which was the home of the philharmonic and is the home of the philharmonic, but also the place where we had our first film festival," said Kesli Klainberg, Film at Lincoln Center, President.
Sixty years later, Klainberg says, the New York Film Festival is enjoying record ticket sales. ABC 7 is one of its sponsors.