L.A.’s Upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Created by the organization behind the Oscars, this seven-story complex celebrates the art and science of movies both past and present.

An aerial view of the newly minted Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. (Photo: Joshua White)

Cinema aficionados considering a future trip to California will not want to miss the newest major attraction to debut in Los Angeles. Opening on September 30 after a four-year delay, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is billed as the largest institution in North America devoted to exploring films and film culture. It’s the fruition of a nearly century-old dream for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which first proposed creating a movie-focused museum as far back as 1929.

Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano’s firm (Renzo Piano Building Workshop) in collaboration with Gensler, the seven-story, 27,800-square-meter facility is split between a renovated Streamline Moderne landmark from 1939, now called the Saban Building, and a new glass-and-concrete spherical structure. It stands at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in the museum-filled inner-city neighborhood dubbed the Miracle Mile.

The main draw of the Academy Museum is its core exhibition “Stories of Cinema,” which explores all aspects of the history, arts, and sciences of moviemaking from a variety of voices and perspectives. Also of note is temporary exhibition “Hayao Miyazaki”—the first museum-based retrospective in North America of the acclaimed filmmaker’s work and Studio Ghibli.

A gallery where 20 Oscar trophies from different periods are kept. (Photo: Joshua White)

Left to right: An Oscar on display; the retrospective on Hayao Miyazaki. (Photos: Joshua White)

Inside the “Hayao Miyazaki” temporary exhibition. (Photo: Joshua White)

Spanning three floors of the institution, “Stories of Cinema” is intended to evolve and change over time to highlight different movies, artists, eras, genres, and more. One area with changing exhibits is the Director’s Inspiration gallery, whose inaugural showcase will feature a personal collection of items from Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, delving into his creative process while addressing recurring themes and the ideas behind some of his most famous titles. Also of note is a separate installation co-curated by a rotating roster of international film directors, with its first edition focused on Pedro Almodóvar.

Other spaces hone in on fields such as sound, costume, animation, and effects; the one dedicated to the latter acknowledges early pioneers like Georges Méliès and takes stock of significant special and visual effects moments in films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and Avatar (2009). Meanwhile, a series of galleries detail the history of the Academy Awards from 1929 to the present, encompassing everything from the origins of the Oscars and the Academy to Oscars fashion and memorable wins; significant acceptance speeches will be shown on wraparound screens. There’s even an immersive simulation that lets you virtually step onto the stage of the Dolby Theatre to accept an Academy Award.

A section on Bruce Lee from the “Stories of Cinema” core exhibition. (Photo: Joshua White)

A costume worn by the Dora Milaje in Black Panther is also on display. (Photo: Joshua White)

The museum at dusk. (Photo: Iwan Baan/Courtesy of the Academy Museum Foundation)

Hungry visitors can dine at Fanny’s, a two-story restaurant and café named after Fanny Brice—the legendary film, vaudeville, theater, and radio star portrayed by Barbra Streisand in her Oscar-winning role as Funny Girl (1968). They’ll also get to pick up souvenirs at the ground-floor Academy Museum Store, which comes stocked with Oscars memorabilia and exclusive film-related collectibles.

Naturally, there will be a roster of film screenings presented at the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater inside the spherical annex as well as the Saban Building’s 288-seat Ted Mann Theater. The first three months of the program will include movies highlighted in the core exhibition, like Bruce Lee’s 1972 martial-arts film The Way of the Dragon. Also due to be screened is Hayao Miyazaki’s complete body of work, in conjunction with the inaugural temporary exhibition. Another series will spotlight the work and legacy of Anna May Wong, the very first Chinese-American Hollywood star. It’s particularly timely considering the ongoing success of Marvel Studios’ first film led by an Asian superhero, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.


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