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Lights, Camera, Action: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to Open in L.A.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, exterior. Photography by Josh White, JWPictures/ ©Academy Museum Foundation.

While the past year has seen mega changes in moviemaking and the ways in which we experience cinema, we still hold the art near and dear to our collective heart, especially in Los Angeles. After decades of longing and years of design and construction, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, celebrating its own, is expected to open its museum September 30. Located along Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile, the project entails total renovation of the historic May Company building with its unmistakable Streamline Moderne façade (now named the Saban Building) plus a new Sphere Building of curved concrete panels, glazing, steel, and capped with a glass dome. Connections come with pedestrian bridges at mezzanine and fifth floor levels leading to an overall area encompassing 300,000 square feet. Executed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Gensler as executive architects, Studio Pali Fekete Architects for contribution to concept design, and, for exhibition design, wHY Architecture whose founder Kulapat Yantrasast poetically comments: “I design to achieve storytelling. Cinema and good design are a way to promote empathy.” Another award-winner, actor and trustee Laura Dern helped to tell the story giving Interior Design and privileged press members a virtual tour prior to opening.

Encounters gallery in Stories of Cinema. Image by wHY Architecture, ©Academy Museum Foundation.

Oh, the things we saw. Galleries designed for permanent and temporary exhibits touched upon every aspect of filmmaking. Screenplays and storyboards where it all starts. A deep dive into the Wizard of Oz, ruby slippers included. A screening room dedicated to image through collaborations with production and set designers and directors of photography. Galleries exploring identity by means of costumes, hair, and makeup. Galleries focusing on sound, animation, special effects, and international filmmakers. In the lobby of the Saban Building, the glass-walled Spielberg Family Gallery introduces visitors to Stories of Cinema while on the fourth floor, the 11,000-square-foot Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery presents a retrospective of Hayao Miyazaki, the first in North America, as its inaugural exhibit and "Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971" follows. Of course, there are screening theaters: the 1,000-seat David Geffen and 288-seat Ted Mann. And of course, there is a space dedicated to the golden figurine itself, a roomful of glowing Oscars signaling the utmost in cinematic recognition.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Ted Mann Theater. Photography by Josh White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation

Prior to opening, the Museum will present a series of virtual conversations. Join Whoopi Goldberg, Sophia Loren, Marlee Matlin, and Buffy Sainte-Marie in Breaking the Oscar Ceiling (April 22); composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (May 18); and the incomparable Spike Lee (September 7). Who knows? We might just experience an in-person, big-screen film before the April 25 Academy Awards ceremony.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Exterior Rendering ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from L’Autre Image
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, David Geffen Theater. Photography by Iwan Baan/©Iwan Baan Studios, courtesy Academy Museum Foundation.

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