Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Academy Museum Opens “Hollywoodland” Sunday

December 1923 Dedication of the Hollywoodland sign. Courtesy Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The long-awaited, first permanent exhibition for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital, will open on Sunday, May 19, 2024. The exhibition tells the origin story of filmmaking in early 20th-century Los Angeles, focused on the impact of the predominately Jewish filmmakers whose establishment of the American film studio system transformed Los Angeles into a global epicenter of cinema. 

Hollywoodlands is a labor of love that we have been working on for several years,” said curator Dara Jaffe in opening remarks to the press at a preview Thursday. “Its foundational relevance to the industry on which this museum is built makes it a perfect debut permanent exhibition.”

“The American film industry began developing amid an influx of immigration to the United States by Jewish émigrés escaping European pogroms and poverty,” said Jaffe. “Most of Hollywood’s founders were among this wave of Jewish immigrants and recognized that the infant movie business presented an opportunity to raise their marginalized status in an industry that didn’t enforce the same antisemitic barriers as many other professions. Hollywoodland also posits the question: how and why did Los Angeles bloom into a world-renowned cinema capital? The goal of our exhibition is to show the inextricable dovetailing of these histories.”

The tabletop topographic map of the city greets visitors as they enter the space.

The tabletop topographic map of the city greets visitors as they enter the space. It’s a cool way to illustrate how the studios are embedded in our neighborhoods. In this section, Los Angeles: From Film Frontier to Industry Town, 1902–1929 the tabletop map of Los Angeles is connected to a large projection screen showing vignettes from the very early days up to the first Academy Awards in 1929 and gives viewers a sense of the quick peek at the diversity of film studios run by black, Chinese and female filmmakers. Visitors can further explore this history through the Academy Museum’s digital Hollywood Past and Present experience.  

Paramount Studios is located right here in Larchmont Village.
Filmmaker Mabel Normand

From there, visitors can view a series of wall of panels on the origins of Hollywood’s original eight “major” film studios (often referred to as “the majors”) – Universal, Fox (later Twentieth Century-Fox), Paramount, United Artists, Warner Bros., Columbia, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and RKO—and the men who ran them.

Next visitors can watch From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood, a short-form documentary, narrated by TCM host and author Ben Mankiewicz, that illustrates the experiences of the Jewish immigrants and first-generation Jewish Americans who were primarily responsible for building the Hollywood studio system.

The film, explains the museum’s materials, examines how antisemitism shaped the founders’ trajectories throughout their careers and how their projected vision of an immigrant’s American Dream came to define America itself on movie screens around the world. It’s interesting to consider this in light of current views about immigration and diversity in the entertainment industry.

The exhibition is presented in English and Spanish. It’s not a huge exhibit. Visitors enter and exit through the same door on the third floor gallery and can wander around viewing the three sections in any order.

Hollywoodland is curated by Dara Jaffe, associate curator, with support from Gary Dauphin, former associate curator of digital presentations, and Josue L. Lopez, research assistant. Author and film critic Neal Gabler is an advisor for the exhibition. Gabler’s first book, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood, will be signing books and speaking on a panel with Jaffee as part of the opening day festivities.

On Sunday, May 19, the exhibition’s opening day will feature two public programs:

Entering studio gates for “Elephant Walk” in front of Paramount Studios. Courtesy Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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