After multiple rescheduling, the highly anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has finally landed on an opening date of Sept. 30. The pandemic has upset everyone's plans over the past year, but the new opening date, after moving from last December to April 30, to coincide with the Academy Awards ceremony five days earlier has at last found a home on the calendar despite a revolving door of top personnel.
On March 10, museum Director and President Bill Kramer, elevated from within after Kerry Brougher resigned in 2019, joined Creative Director Jacqueline Stewart for a press event. The host of TCM's "Silent Sundays," Stewart came aboard this past January. Her appointment came after the resignation of the original creative director, Deborah Horovitz. She was first replaced by Peter Castro, a commercial photographer and graphic designer. He stepped into the position in 2019, only to step out again after charges of rape and sexual assault surfaced.
Ron Meyer served as chair of the Academy Museum board of trustees and vice chairman of NBCUniversal until revelations about an inappropriate relationship with actor Charlotte Kirk brought an end to his tenure at NBCUniversal and the museum. Last September, he was replaced by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who was elected to the position.
A star-studded gala will be held Sept. 25 to kick off a week of celebrations before the official opening. Honorees will include Italian screen legend Sophia Loren, who will receive the museum's inaugural annual Visionary Award and indie filmmaker Haile Gerima. Special awards will also be presented to Tom Hanks, Annette Bening and Bob Iger for their efforts to raise $388 million for the museum. More than 13,000 donors contributed to the fundraising campaign, with $50 million coming from Cheryl and Haim Saban, which explains why the classic 1939 moderne May Company building housing the museum is now called the Saban building.
In the past fiscal year, the Academy Awards' contract to air the Oscars with ABC accounted for 95% of the $131.9 million in revenue the academy took in last year. The rest of it came from items like ticket sales, mailing fees, red carpet access fees and other things related to the ceremony. But with awards ratings steadily slipping over the years, the Academy has a substantial investment portfolio valued at $635.3 million to fall back on.
The six-story museum will feature 50,000 square feet of exhibition space designed by wHY's Kulapat Yantrasast, the art architect behind Christie's Beverly Hills showroom and FriezeLA's tent space on the Paramount lot. The Shirley Temple Education Studio will train future filmmakers, and two separate theaters, the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the 288-seat Ted Mann Theater, will entertain them. Atop the Geffen is the Dolby Family Terrace, accessible to the public and affording spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills.
In a canned virtual tour of the museum, narrator Laura Dern was joined by filmmakers Guillermo del Toro and Spike Lee among others, including legendary actor Rita Moreno. "Early in my career, I felt like an outlier. Pigeonholed by typecasting, I had to choose between countless ethnic roles, Hispanic, Asian, Arabian, you name it, or not have a paycheck," said Moreno, who went on to recall her Oscar-winning role in "West Side Story." "I hold the honor of being the first Latina actress to ever receive an Oscar!"
Although it celebrates Hollywood, the museum will not shy away from inconvenient truths about race and cinema, blackface and the marginalization of people of color. Among the inaugural exhibits is "Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971," as well as a two-gallery experience devoted to the Academy Awards, including a look at #OscarsSoWhite.
"This is one of the most tricky, complex and relevant topics the film industry is dealing with," notes Stewart, a Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. "We know we will have visitors that are thinking about these questions. So we want to be a platform for furthering those conversations and helping to develop tools for having difficult conversations. We really didn't feel it was the right approach to stay simply in the lane of celebration at a time when we all know there are national and global conversations about these issues."
In the lead up to Oscar night on April 30, the museum plans a series of virtual events, the first of which will feature trustee Diane von Furstenberg in conversation with groundbreaking women in the industry. "Breaking the Oscars Ceiling" will include Sophia Loren, Whoopi Goldberg, singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie and Marlee Matlin.
Online screenings include writer-director Dee Rees' 2011 "Pariah," followed by a discussion with the cast and crew. Also screening will be writer-director Alfonso Cuaron's 2001 "Y Tu Mamá También," with a discussion between the director and cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki.
"Joker" composer and Oscar winner Hildur Guðnadóttir will sit for a virtual conversation, and her work will be featured in an exhibit about film scoring. Previously announced exhibits will go on as scheduled, including one on Japanese anime icon Hayao Miyazaki whose movies will screen in the museum's theaters.
The Art of Moviemaking will feature collaborations co-curated with famous filmmakers like Spike Lee, who will also participate in an upcoming virtual conversation with Kramer. "Many times when people come to my office, they automatically look on the walls and say this is a museum. My collection is a sneak peek into my loves, my influences," said the director. "I wanna see yellow school buses double parked in front of the museum and these young, beautiful minds get introduced to cinema, introduced to stuff they never thought about. And also, maybe it sparks something in them and they say, y'know what? I want to be a filmmaker."