Motion Pictures Lovers Will Love LA’s Latest Museum
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Opens in Los Angeles
By Debra Smith
As Dorothy said in the 1939 classic film “The Wizard of Oz,” “There’s no place like home.”
Finally, after 90 years the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has a permanent home in Los Angeles. The stunning state-of-the-art architectural gem has been worth the wait.
Taking Center Stage
A glowing soap bubble of an addition appears to have rolled down from the Hollywood hills to dock next to the former 1939 May Co. department store, now renamed the Saban Building, on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax on Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile.
Two slender bridges link the glass dome to the exhibition space.
One red-carpeted bridge leads into the 1,000 seat David Geffen Theatre on the mezzanine and the other leads out to the 8,600 square foot Dolby Family Terrace, where a panoramic view frames the iconic Hollywood sign.
The interior of the Saban Building has been stripped back to expose the original concrete pillars and the former display windows throw light into the modern industrial style Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby.
The pillars have been named and claimed as a fundraising project by celebrities like Barbra Streisand and J.J. Abrams. About a third of the 350,000 gold leaf mosaic on the exterior has been painstakingly recreated in Venice and restored.
Designed by famed architect Renzo Piano, the museum opened on September 30, 2021. A winner of the Pritzker Prize, Piano’s buildings include the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, The Shard in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
Through cutting-edge technology from nitrate to laser, the museum offers film lovers an opportunity to delve into the rich history, art, and advances in moviemaking from the days of silent pictures into the digital future. The first major film center ever built in LA, it has a 300,000 square-foot campus, and 50,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Behind the Camera
Inside the 250,000 square foot museum space, three floors of exhibitions explore every facet of movie-making, from set design and costumes to scriptwriting, directing, acting, and editing.
It begins with an immersive installation in the Spielberg Family Gallery, just inside the lobby. This free 13-minute overview begins with clips from the first movies ever made by Louis Lumiere in 1895 and continues through to the present day, whetting the appetite of any cinephile for the Stories of Cinema in the galleries above.
Have a hankering to come face to face with the Alien’s head, or check out the Dude’s bathrobe from The Big Lebowski?
The museum’s collection includes 8,000 permanent items and it also draws on the extensive holdings of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with 13 million photographs, 250,000 film and video assets, and the private collections of many industry greats like Katharine Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock. Expect to find an ever-changing selection of movie memorabilia and insightful exhibitions going forward.
And the Oscar Goes To…You
Delve into the making of masterpieces in the Significant Movies and Moviemakers Gallery, where six selected films are examined in depth. Review the history of the Academy awards, then take center stage at The Oscars Experience, a simulated Oscar night at the Dolby Theatre.
Prepare your acceptance speech before you hear your name called — you’ll be videotaped with a real Oscar. Programming at the museum includes live-on-stage discussions with and about filmmakers and actors, film series in many genres, and screenings of classic, rare, and independent movies in two state-of-the-art theatres.
Just the Ticket
The museum’s introductory film series includes a complete retrospective of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, accompanied by an exhibition of 300 objects, some never seen outside Japan; the films of Haile Gerima that explore the social and political realities of Black communities; and thirteen Oscar-nominated horror movies, just in time for Halloween.
In The Art of Moviemaking Gallery, the Wizard of Oz becomes a case study where everything from a designer’s dream to interoffice memos traces the creation of this legendary film. And yes, the ruby slippers have finally come home, in an architectural masterpiece that’s bound to become a Los Angeles landmark.
When you visit:
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is open Sunday to Thursday from 10 am to 6 pm and Friday to Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm. Website: https://www.academymuseum.org/en/visit