Oscar Museum takes a huge step forward with LACMA partnership

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) made a surprising announcement tonight that should bring the long awaited Academy Museum to life.  On Tuesday night, the Academy’s Board of Governors agreed with LACMA leadership to work in “good faith” to establish the Academy’s movie museum in the historic May Company building which is currently known as LACMA West.  According to a joint release, this is the first step in the Academy “developing plans for fundraising, design, exhibitions, visitor experience, and modifications to this historic site.”  Basically, movie fans, cinephiles and tourists will finally have an Oscar museum to visit sometime in their lifetime.

There is no set time frame on the new museum, but the Academy says it hopes to sign a long term lease and will retain autonomy over the facility while “benefiting from LACMA’s experience in managing a premier arts institution.”  The 300,000 ft. facility will feature permanent and rotating exhibits from the Academy’s vast library and archives.

Conveniently adjacent to LACMA’s main buildings, the May Company Department store building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax was purchased by the non-profit org in 1994.  Four year later it opened as LACMA West increasing the museum’s capacity by 30% at the time.  The museum recently underwent a massive transformation with the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and stunning Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion over the past three years.  An Academy museum focusing on the art of the motion picture would be a crown jewel for the facility making it one of the major cultural museums in the United States.

The Academy has been trying to get an official museum off the ground for decades and the last plan was a new building that would have been built behind the current Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood.  A difficult fundraising prospect for AMPAS before the economy turned sour, those hopes were put on hold a few years ago.  This new plan is unexpected, but on closer inspection it makes a lot of sense.  Terry Semel, one time co-chairman of Warner Bros. before heading to run Yahoo!, is the Co-Chair of LACMA’s board of trustees.  LACMA trustees also include a slew of notable and active Academy members including Brian Grazer, Bryan Lourd, Steve Tisch and Barbara Streisand among others.  

Semel noted in the announcement, “It is appropriate and long overdue for the city that is home to the motion picture industry to recognize this art form with a museum of its own. The LACMA Board is delighted to be facilitating this important cultural event, which has special resonance for me, having spent most of my life dedicated to the great art of movies. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will provide a much needed destination for cultural tourists and Los Angelenos to learn more about cinema, and the setting could not be more ideal, nestled next to the largest encyclopedic art museum in the Western United States.”

Academy President Tom Sherak added, “The new museum will be a world-class destination that is a tangible representation of the Academy”s mission. And the idea of our museum being part of a larger cultural center for the arts, in this city that we love, was incredibly compelling to the Academy Board.”

While the fact the museum is finally coming to fruition is a boon for Los Angeles overall it’s a major blow to Hollywood.  While the Pickford Center location was not ideal, it was close enough to Sunset and Vine and Hollywood Blvd. where it would have added another destination point to a part of Los Angeles that is still undergoing major revitalization. Partnering with LACMA saves AMPAS the huge amount of money that would have been necessary to build an entirely new facility.

Now, if only The Recording Academy could find a way to move and expand the horribly disappointing Grammy Museum at LA Live.

Are you excited an Oscar museum may finally be on the way?  Share your thoughts below.

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