Oscars Get Their Own Museum on Wilshire

The Motion Picture Academy has announced plans for a $300 million museum on the LACMA campus.

©Renzo Piano Building Workshop This color rendering shows how the new, $300 million Film Academy museum will look from behind, when it's finished in 2017. It will feature 290,000 square feet of space on the Wilshire Boulevard LACMA campus, in the former May Company building.

It’s hard to believe that no official Oscar film museum exists. After all, rock and roll, baseball and just about every other sport has its own Hall of Fame. Why not movies?

That injustice is about to be rectified, as the Motion Picture Academy, the folks who bring you the Oscars, has announced plans for an Academy Museum, to be built inside the old May Company building on the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA) campus on Wilshire Boulevard.

Finally there will be a venue where the public can enjoy the Academy’s permanent collection of more than 10 million photographs, 146,000 film and video assets, 80,000 screenplays, 46,000 posters and 20,000 production and costume design drawings. The collection also includes upwards of 1,400 special collections of film legends such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston.

The new museum, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano and contemporary architect Zoltan Pali, will contain close to 290,000 square feet of state-of-the-art galleries, exhibition spaces, movie theaters, educational areas and special event spaces.

Specifically, the ground floor will feature an interactive filmmaking experience, where visitors will be able to learn how to shoot and edit a film, light a set, score a movie, overlay visual effects, do Foley work, utilize a green screen and much more. That’s also where the lobby, café and gift shop will be located.

The second floor will be dedicated to filmmaking history, with displays ranging from Lumiere and the Cinematographe through the Silent Age of Cinema on up to Epics and 3-D, and today’s complicated movie business.

©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Studio Pali Fekete architects/©A.M.P.A.S. This model shows how the landmark Wilshire May Company building on the LACMA campus will be made over to house the new Academy Museum, with an arresting, globe-like,1,000-seat theater in back where the parking lot used to be.

Architecturally speaking, the museum’s most prominent feature will probably be the 1,000-seat theater, housed inside a giant, glass golf ball-like structure, to be constructed in what used to be the May Company’s parking lot. Media mogul David Geffen has already donated $25 million to the project, ensuring that the theater will be named after him.

That’s no small step toward the $300 million the Academy wants to raise for the project. Especially considering Geffen has already donated millions to the Geffen Playhouse for the Performing Arts and a visual arts space called the Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).

Robert A. Iger, CEO and Chairman of the Walt Disney Company who is in charge of the museum’s fundraising campaign, announced that half the funds ($150 million) have already been raised.

But donors still have the opportunity to see their names elsewhere in the museum, such as on the theater’s adjacent green room for a donation of $2.5 million, on the Founders Room or Rooftop Terrace for $5 million, or on the Film History Gallery, for a whopping $20 million donation, which is still considerably less than some people make on a blockbuster.

It will not be unlike a Disneyland for film enthusiasts, minus the rides — one more must-see for Los Angeles residents and tourists alike.

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