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Academy Museum Teases September Opening with Preview of Exhibits and Programs

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Saban Building. Photo by Josh White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is still (again?) six months away from its September 30 opening date, but museum officials showed off their considerable progress toward the debut with a virtual press preview yesterday.  The event showcased new gallery spaces, content and behind-the-scenes talent and contributors.  Unlike a live preview just over a year ago (before the pandemic lockdowns), which focused mostly on the building’s raw spaces, this sneak peek spotlighted both the now-much-closer-to-ready building and the museum’s tantalizing array of content and programming, carefully curated to attract everyone from casual moviegoers to hard-core film buffs, from all walks of life.

The first part of yesterday’s press event was a nearly 30-minute video, narrated by actor and Academy Museum board member Laura Dern, with guest appearances by architect Renzo Piano, actor Rita Moreno, and content contributors Spike Lee and Pedro Almodovar, among others.  The presentation highlighted specific galleries and exhibitions in the museum, and the artistic, historic, and cultural diversity front and center in the museum’s collections and exhibitions.

And the sheer volume is enticing.  As summarized in a press statement:

“The 300,000-square-foot museum will feature more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space for both a highly immersive permanent exhibition and a schedule of diverse temporary exhibitions, two film and performance theaters, a state-of-the-art education studio, and dynamic spaces for public and special events.

The Academy Museum has actively been acquiring three-dimensional motion-picture objects since 2008. Its holdings now number approximately 5,000 items representing motion picture technology, costume design, production design, makeup and hairstyling, and promotional materials.

The museum will also draw from the unparalleled collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which contains a vast range of motion picture production and history-related objects and technology, works on paper, and still and moving images covering the history of motion pictures in the United States and throughout the world. The collections include more than 12.5 million photographs; 237,000 film and video assets; 85,000 screenplays; 65,000 posters; and 133,000 pieces of production art. Highlights feature more than 1,700 special collections of film legends such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Hattie McDaniel, Alfred Hitchcock, and John Huston.”

Rendering of the Encounters Gallery in Stories of Cinema, ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image by WHY Architecture


Speaking to the media after the video, Museum Director Bill Kramer said the broad, multi-dimentional diversity of the museum is designed to tell interesting and engaging stories about the full spectrum of both the art and people of cinema, so visitors of all backgrounds will see things completely new to them, and – at the same time – be able to see themselves reflected in the industry.

Jacqueline Stewart, Chief Artistic and Programming Officer of the Academy Museum, noted that the museum will also tackle “tricky” discussions, such as the recent “Oscars So White” campaign, head on, deliberately placing them front and center, precisely “because they’re so tricky.”  Stewart said the museum knows visitors are thinking about these tough subjects, and the creators want to provide tools for these tough conversations and “not just stay in the lane of celebration.”

But there will definitely be celebration, too.

According to Kramer, the museum will “looking at the entire history of the art form,” including its pre-history.   And even the design of the building itself, by noted architect Renzo Piano, will be part of that celebration. “Design is important in filmmaking, and in building museums,” Kramer said.  And just as  film is a collaborative art, “building a museum is the same thing.”

“We hope people will enter our galleries and theaters and be wowed,” said Kramer, just like when they see a great movie.  “We want to build empathy and connections in a very direct way.”


Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Exterior Rendering ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from L’Autre Image


In addition to the preview of what’s coming in September, the museum also announced a new slate of pre-opening virtual programming, including “a series of virtual conversations, screenings, and education programs on the Academy Museum website.  Conceived as digital prologues to the Academy Museum’s core exhibition, Stories of Cinema, these programs will share the varied voices of extraordinary film artists, tell the stories of their inspirations and collaborations, and explore the art, technology, history, and social impact of the movies.”

According to Stewart, in a press statement also released yesterday, “The programs we are rolling out for our opening are dynamic, diverse, and deeply grounded in the history and artistry of filmmaking. Whether they are recognizing Hollywood legends, delving into the working process of film professionals, or addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality and inequity that run through film history, these programs will use the power of movies and stories of filmmakers to open eyes and minds.”

The first of the pre-launch programs will be Breaking the Oscars® Ceiling, an April 22 panel discussion hosted by Academy Museum trustee Diane von Furstenberg and moderated by Stewart, speaking with four women who achieved historic Oscars milestones: actor Sophia Loren, actor and comedian Whoopi Goldberg, actor Marlee Matlin, and singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.


Participants in the upcoming Breaking the Oscars® Ceiling forum:  Diane von Furstenberg, Whoopie Goldberg, Marlee Matline, Sophia Loren and Buffy Sainte- Marie


Also on April 22, the museum’s website will debut Oscars and Hollywood: the Academy Awards History Timeline, “an interactive timeline that previews and expands on the Academy Museum’s gallery of Academy Awards History and Hollywood Past and Present, a virtual tour of Oscars-related locations with vintage and contemporary photographs of key locations.”

And over the next few months, there will be more online film screenings, artist conversations, workshops and more, including:


Film Screenings and Conversations with the Artists
    •  Pariah (2011), the cast and crew of this groundbreaking fiction debut of writer/director Dee Rees reunite to discuss the conception, production, and impact of this coming-of-age story.
    •  Y tu mamá también (2001), a celebration of the creative partnership between three-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and four-time Oscar-winning writer-director Alfonso Cuaron (this event will be in Spanish with English subtitles).
In Conversation Series
    • Spike Lee, a virtual conversation with the trailblazing writer-director, exploring how Lee’s vast personal collection represents his many cinematic muses in the museum’s Director’s Inspiration gallery.
    • Hildur Guðnadóttir, a virtual conversation between the Oscar-winning musician and composer (Joker, 2019) and Academy Museum Exhibitions Curator Jenny He, discussing Guðnadóttir’s work and her approach to designing the museum’s Composer’s Inspiration gallery.
    • Activism and Film, an in-depth conversation on the intersections between filmmaking and social change featuring drop-in guests and previewing the Academy Museum’s Impact/Reflection gallery.
Workshops and Education Programs
      • How to Use Film as a Teaching Tool to Have Difficult Conversations, a series of workshops for educators and caregivers.
      • The Work of Black VFX Artists , celebrating the accomplishments of six visual effects professionals in a candid discussion about perseverance and the shared experiences of Black film artists in the industry. Offering unprecedented access into their creative process via break-out sessions with visual effects professionals Lyndon Barrois, Lauren Ellis, Audrea Topps-Harjo, Greg Anderson, Andrew Roberts, and Corey Turner.
      • Hayao Miyazaki Family Day, introducing families to the world of Hayao Miyazaki’s films through a day of events including art-making workshops and live performances. Academy Museum family day programs are made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.


When the Museum opens at the end of September, it will launch its full slate of exhibits, screenings, in-depth conversations, and other programs for youth and families, including:


  • Branch Selects, selected by each of the Academy’s 17 branches that represent meaningful breakthroughs in the evolution of their craft.
  • Exhibition-inspired series expanding on the themes, films, and filmmakers in the museum’s galleries. For the museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, the museum will present all of Miyazaki’s features in both Japanese with English subtitles and with English dubbing, as well as additional series exploring the worlds, ideas and stories created by this master filmmaker.
  • Oscar Sundays, screenings of Oscar-nominated and -winning films, as well as a behind the scenes look inside the Academy and the Academy Awards.
  • Filmmakers’ Inspiration, expanding upon the gallery spaces curated by film artists Pedro Almodóvar, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Spike Lee with films they select highlighting their own works and films that have influenced them.
  • Preservation Spotlights, showcasing recently preserved films from archives around the world
  • Retrospectives offering expansive surveys of a filmmaker’s body of work. Our inaugural year will include retrospectives on a range of film artists from Indian writer/director Satyajit Ray, Ethiopian-born writer/director/teacher Haile Gerima, Austrian exiles who helped shape much of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and actress and icon Anna May Wong.
  • Shorts in the Geffen, daily screenings celebrating the creativity of short-form filmmaking—live-action, documentary, and animated—in the David Geffen Theater during regular museum hours.


There will also be “conversations, panels, symposia, and lectures several times a month in our theaters celebrating film artists and film history while also providing learning opportunities to lean into areas of harm, hurt and complexity.”  These will include:


  • Legacy, inviting family members of Hollywood legends to discuss the legacy of film artists and provide first-hand insights into film history.
  • Impact/Reflection, featuring film artists in conversation with scholars and activists about the relationship between documentary and narrative film and topics presented in the museum’s Impact/Reflection galleries in Stories of Cinema, such as #MeToo, pay equity, Black Lives Matter, climate change, and labor relations.
  • The Arts and Sciences of Cinema, providing information and context about breakthrough scientific and technical achievements in filmmaking, featuring figures who have made major contributions to their fields.
  • In Conversation Series , with profiles of film artists, celebrations of the anniversaries of significant films, discussions in which film artists speak with people who have been their inspirations and influences, and more. • Contextualizing Cinema, where Academy members and scholars unpack challenging topics in film history—such as racialized makeup, degrading depictions of Indigenous peoples, and racism in animation—with the aim of increasing empathy and knowledge.
  • Object Acquisitions, inviting audiences to follow the journey into the Academy Museum of iconic objects such as the “Bruce the Shark” model from Jaws (1975) and the ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939).
  • Hayao Miyazaki, linked to the Academy Museum’s first temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, unpacking themes in his films including environmentalism, female empowerment, post-war society, and Japanese spirituality and culture.


And, finally,”Education and family programs will be ongoing at the Academy Museum, provided both in the exhibition galleries and in the Shirley Temple Education Studio:”


  • Teen programs, made for teens, by teens, the Academy Museum will engage with local teenagers to create workshops and events.
  • Family studio activities will follow family matinee screenings on weekends and will be facilitated by Teaching Artists, with Academy members dropping in as guest teachers. Participants will gain hands-on experience with filmmaking processes and technologies while enjoying informal, play-based learning.
  • Free Monthly Quiet Mornings, held on weekends before regular public hours, will give young people with sensory processing disorders and their families or caregivers an opportunity to experience the museum with no crowds, lower sound levels, and moderated lighting contrasts. Participants will join a facilitated accommodative tour, followed by a workshop in the Education Studio.
  • Seasonal family/community days will provide programs on all floors throughout the day, including tours, Education Studio activities, demonstrations, and performances.
  • School tours will be offered twice a week, at no cost and with the expense of bus travel reimbursed. Advance registration is required and will become available in the summer. Tours and accompanying programs in the Education Studio at appropriate grade levels are being developed with the assistance of roundtables with teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Programs will be designed to connect to national curriculum and the needs of California teachers and students.


And, of course, says the museum, “visitors will be able to join themed, interactive 45-minute guided tours throughout the week, offering insights on the core collection, exhibitions, art installations, and the Academy Museum’s architectural design. Family tours and accommodative tours (including offerings for the low vision, blind, hard of hearing, and deaf communities) will be scheduled on a regular basis. On weekends, multiple 15-minute Gallery Highlights will encourage a deeper understanding of focal points in the museum’s content while engaging visitors in conversation. Guided tours and Gallery Highlights will be free with museum admission, and free audio tours will also be available in English, Spanish, and Korean.”

For more information, see


Aerial shot of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. ©Academy Museum Foundation
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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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