Preview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

By Craig Miller: [Reprinted from Facebook with permission. Craig and Genny Dazzo visited the new Museum on September 27.]

In, I believe, 1927, the Academy of Motion Pictures was founded.

In 1929, they decided there should be a museum of motion picture history and memorabilia.

In three days, a little shy of a hundred years later, the Academy Museum will open to the public.

We’re just back from a preview tour of the Museum.

They’ve done a pretty great job of redesigning and remodeling the existing building (the former May Co. Department Store, which I remember my mother taking me to when I was a little kid). And they added what has been dubbed by at least the local press as “The Death Star”, a giant ball of a building housing a 1,000 seat theater.

The theater building wasn’t open for us to tour so I don’t know what else, if anything, is in there besides the big theater. (There’s also a smaller, 280 theater somewhere in the complex. Not sure which building.)

What was open was most of the main building. The fifth floor was closed. Apparently in preparation for the Big Opening Events but the exhibits we toured on the other four floors were pretty swell.

As with all museums, some are special, limited duration exhibits. Others are more-or-less permanent. And a few areas were well marked as a permanent exhibit which would have on-going changes. One such area showcased five different feature films with clips and behind the scenes information, photos, etc. Over time, the films showcased will change. (I’m guessing that’s in part to give a full view of the history of films and part political – “hey, how come you aren’t showing one of our films?” with varying definitions of “our”.) One of the films currently showcased is Citizen Kane. As part of the exhibit, they have the one remaining Rosebud sled (on loan from Steven Spielberg).

The current special exhibit, occupying much of the fourth floor, is on Hayao Miyazaki and his films. Lots of clips being shown on many different screens in the several rooms of the exhibit. Lots of production art, character designs, cels, storyboards, etc. Quite an elaborate exhibit.

I confess I enjoyed that there were quite a number of items on display in the museum or talked about that are from films I worked on or I have some kind of relationship to. An R2-D2 and a C-3PO costume were on display (though an R2 from a more recent period than the one I used to operate). Several things from The Dark Crystal. And in the animation exhibit (different from the special Miyazaki exhibit), there is an animation drawing from Gertie the Dinosaur that’s just a few frames away from one of the Gertie drawings on my office wall.

There’s also what they’re calling an “installation”. It’s basically a round room showing “Behold”, a 26-minute long film created by Ben Burtt. It’s sort of like Disney’s old Circle-Vision 360, in that the images are projected all around you. It’s lots of clips from science fiction films ranging from A Trip to the Moon to Star Wars and more recent films. It’s shown sort of as a triptych (though occasionally a “quadtych”) with related and counterpoint scenes playing all at once. It was swell. And while there’s a big seating area in the center of the room, I recommend standing by the door. That’s the only way you can see what’s on all sides.

There was also a large and very good exhibit on the 1939 The Wizard of Oz. In addition to all the photos, behind the scenes information, etc. are what was described as a screen-used pair of ruby slippers.

We spent four hours touring the museum and we could have spent a lot more time there. (And will, in future trips.) There are a lot of great exhibits and we just ran out of time and energy.

3 thoughts on “Preview of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

  1. Wow!

    How could anyone have visited LA in the last 50 years and not known where the May Company was located? (giggle)

    Not very far from Museum Row.

    In a sense, LA now has a really oh truly oh heart.

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