The long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its doors to the public on Sept. 30 after several years of construction. The museum, dedicated to films and film culture, is the first of its kind in Los Angeles and the largest in the United States.
“The film industry and L.A. are synonymous,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a speech liberally sprinkled with film puns. “We’re the epicenter, the chief cultural exporter in the world, and this Academy Museum will, from here to eternity, serve as that powerful symbol that L.A. is passionately invested in film.”
“This is more than an American beauty, it’s an international landmark,” he said. “The museum will be a beacon of inspiration to visitors from across our city, as far away as Casablanca and beyond, shining a light on a much beloved art form.”
The seven-story, 300,000-square-foot museum in the Miracle Mile district opens with five exhibitions exploring the history of cinema. Guests can explore a collection of pre-cinematic optical toys and step into the world of acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Stories of Cinema, the core exhibition, will offer perspectives on filmmaking past and present.
It also includes an immersive experience offering guests a chance to step onto the stage of the Dolby Theater and accept a genuine Oscar. Unfortunately, the 15-second event does not leave much time for delivering an acceptance speech.
The Miyazaki exhibit, the museum’s first temporary installation, immerses guests in the world of the director’s visionary storytelling and idiosyncratic animation. Visitors make their way through multiple rooms full of original imageboards, production cels, and concept art while projectors beam scenes from his movies onto surrounding walls. The exhibit provides a microscopic view of Miyazaki’s process and a broad-level perspective of his stunning career.
Mike and Kris Kolker described the exhibit, housed on the third floor of the Saban Building, as “astonishing”–with one caveat. “I’m old enough that, as a little kid, I came into this building,” Mike Kolker told the Courier. “I’m a little disappointed that none of the original architecture is here.
Guests can also glimpse archival collections from cinematic classics, such as storyboards and screenplays from iconic films like “Psycho” and “When Harry Met Sally.” The Moviemaking gallery will have a collection that takes viewers behind-the-scenes of “The Wizard of Oz.” The museum displays a vast array of artifacts and information that explores every facet of the moviemaking process, with exhibits on sound design, makeup artistry, special effects, and costume design.
The museum will also serve as a space for movie-oriented activities and events. The museum will host family education events, including family studio activities, school tours, and teen programs.
The museum will also host film screenings in the 1,000-seat David Geffen theater and 288-seat Ted Mann Theater. Some screenings will include discussions with filmmakers and actors. The David Geffen theater will open with a special screening of “The Wizard of Oz” accompanied live by the American Youth Symphony and conducted by David Newman.
“We’re finally returning to a community life after such a long and painful and traumatic year,” Garcetti said. “It feels like the perfect moment for Angelenos to come together safely to celebrate, to find our soul, to know who we are. And nothing reveals more about who we are than the arts, especially movies.”
The museum’s first visitors take in scenes from classic cinema at the Stories of Cinema exhibit. Photo by Samuel Braslow