Go inside the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles
The long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures finally is finally ready to be Los Angeles’ main feature, opening to the public on Sept. 30.
“Los Angeles, the film community, the Academy, we’ve wanted to build a museum devoted to movie making for a century. There have been a lot of twists and turns but I am thrilled that this is the moment when we’re opening the museum, it’s been worth it,” said Bill Kramer, director and president of the Academy Museum, as he stood in the museum’s Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby during a media preview of the facility.
Construction began in 2016 for the seven-story, 300,000-square-foot museum that includes 50,000 square feet of gallery space to showcase film and film culture.
“Filmmaking is an art form that is enjoyed by everyone around the world,” Kramer said. “This is an art form that deserves a museum of the highest caliber and we have it,” he said.
The museum consists of two buildings, including the Saban Building, the 1939 former May Company building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, which was renovated, expanded and renamed.
The other is a new structure connected by two glass bridges and defined by a glass dome. It houses the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater, which is drenched in all red, from the carpets to the seats to the ceiling. This is where various film screenings will take place. The Saban’s basement also has a smaller theater, a 288-seat room named after Ted Mann.
“This is already a landmark,” Kramer said of the new museum.
“We saved this iconic structure and we built a beautiful companion building that’s soaring and light and airy,” Kramer said.
The Academy Museum is hitting the ground running with a number of opening exhibitions, installations and immersive experiences.
Here are the exhibitions and other attractions you will see at the new museum.
This multi-level installation is at the heart of the museum’s mission and is expected to evolve through the years.
“Our core exhibition, Stories of Cinema, is designed to tell the history of cinema but in a dynamic and nimble way,” Kramer said. “We designed the galleries to rotate different stories through those galleries. There’s not one story of cinema; there’s not one history of cinema. So many diverse artists have created our shared history and we want to talk about them all.”
At more than 30,000 square feet, “Stories of Cinema” is spread out through three levels of the museum and draws heavily from the Academy’s collection of memorabilia and other items with the lofty goal of showing people the history and impact of films along with the stories of filmmakers and the works they create.
This is done with props, costumes, scripts, posters, movie clips and other things that aim to tell the story of films from multiple perspectives.
The exhibition begins in the glass-walled Spielberg Family Gallery. Inside, several TVs show clips from hundreds of films. Think of it as sort of an appetizer for what’s to come because on the second floor is where the blockbuster show starts at the Wanda Gallery on the second floor.
And it starts with one of the most significant films of all time as you stare at an original “Citizen Kane” poster signed by Orson Welles. Next to that is an original draft script from, plus Rosebud, the little red sled that also appeared in Welles’ film.
Then, exemplifying the museum’s goal of telling diverse stories, it’s Bruce Lee’s turn for a closeup with a pair of his nunchucks on display as well as a blue outfit he wore in “Enter the Dragon. That’s followed by a display of memorabilia and videos from the film “Real Women Have Curves.”
“For us this is really important that we create new dialogues between movies and movie makers. So we are embracing the full breath of the craft of movie making,” said Doris Berger, senior director of curatorial affairs at the museum.
There’s also a section highlighting filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, who was the son of slaves and a prominent Black filmmaker in the early 20th century who wrote and directed more than 40 films.
At the exhibition people will see an advertisement for his 1919 silent film “Homesteader,” which reads “Oscar Micheaux’s Great Photoplay,” above the title of the film.
And there are plenty of film costumes here, too, like the Dude’s robe from “The Big Lebowski,” Russell Crowe’s gladiator outfit from “Gladiator.” For horror fans there’s the red jumpsuit worn by Lupita Nyong’o in “Us” — and yes, it’s displayed with the gold scissors.
If you like animation, sci-fi and fantasy, head upstairs on the third floor where “Stories of Cinema” ends.
In this section people will see things such as storyboards for “Toy Story,” sketches for classic animated films such as “Bambi,” and early drawings for characters including Fiona from “Shrek,” while sci-fi and fantasy are represented with things like a silver spacesuit from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a costume from “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” the amphibian man from “The Shape of Water” and Edward Scissorhands’ Gothic threads.