Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the monster’s head from Alien, the Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane—if the mention of any of these items gets your heart racing, a stop at Los Angeles’s new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is in order. The seven-story, 300,000-square-foot tribute to cinema opened its doors on Wilshire Boulevard on September 30, with exhibitions that span everything from the earliest days of filmmaking to the latest blockbuster releases.
The museum has acquired approximately 8,000 items, many of which will appear in the “Stories of Cinema” exhibition, housed in a 1930s Streamline Moderne former May Company department store building. Many pieces were purchased at auction or donated by the families of Golden Age stars such as Bela Lugosi, whose Dracula cape is in the collection. The exhibit stretches across three floors, with a replica of the 25-foot fiberglass shark used in Jaws suspended above the escalators.
“Designing the core exhibition spaces in the new Academy Museum has been a great opportunity to use design to achieve multilayered storytelling,” Kulapat Yantrasast, founder and creative director of WHY Architecture and designer of “Stories of Cinema,” explained at a virtual event earlier this year. “We want to give people a chance to gravitate toward their personal interests, as well as discover new artists, new films, and cinematic moments.”
As comprehensive as it is, “Stories of Cinema” is just one part of the museum. A futuristic spherical second building designed by Renzo Piano includes the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater, where film screenings and special events will take place. The Spielberg Family Gallery, funded by director Steven Spielberg and his family, features a 13-minute introductory film on the history of cinema. The Debbie Reynolds Conservation Studio recognizes the actress’s contributions to preserving costumes, while the Shirley Temple Education Studio offers filmmaking programs to elementary and high school–aged students. The inaugural temporary exhibition is the first North American retrospective of beloved Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Visitors can even give their own acceptance speech as part of an immersive simulation in the “Oscars Experience.”
For film fans and industry insiders alike, the advent of this museum is long overdue. Netflix co-CEO and Academy Museum board of trustees chair Ted Sarandos counts himself as both, noting during the virtual event that when he moved to LA in 1998, he couldn’t believe an official museum honoring cinema didn’t exist. “All that,” he said, “is about to change.”
While You’re There:
No movie-themed trip to Tinseltown is complete without a visit to these landmarks
The Formosa Cafe
Situated in a restored train car, this irresistibly noir café opened in 1939 and was frequented by such stars as Humphrey Bogart and Lana Turner (as depicted in L.A. Confidential).
The Musso & Frank Grill
A mainstay since 1919, this restaurant has hosted everyone from F. Scott Fitzgerald to George Clooney. Order a martini and a ribeye and pretend you’re in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Tam O’Shanter
Walt Disney used to dine at this Scottish-themed steakhouse, which opened in 1922. Table 31 was his favorite, and numerous Imagineers have left doodles there in tribute.
The Frolic Room
Stars including Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland used to duck into this dive bar after premieres at the Pantages Hollywood next door. Make like Ol’ Blue Eyes and drink a Jack Daniel’s beneath the Al Hirschfeld mural.