The Frame

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Behind the scenes at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

by John Horn and Darby Maloney with Paola Mardo | The Frame

The Frame's John Horn tours the construction site for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. KPCC

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is being built at the corner of Fairfax Ave. and Wilshire Blvd., just west of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  

The museum’s opening has been delayed several times, and won’t open until 2019. Museum officials just announced a $50 million gift from TV producer Haim Saban, but the academy still needs to raise about $100 million to meet the museum's $388 million cost.

Below are some renderings of the museum:

Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The museum, designed by architect Renzo Piano, features a massive sphere-shaped theater and is a combination of new construction and a renovation of the 1939 May Company building.

Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The museum will be dedicated to exploring the art and science of movies and filmmaking. Its collection has items representing elements of motion picture technology, costume design, production design, makeup and hairstyling, promotional materials, memorabilia and awards.

Rendering of the sphere at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of the sphere at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

This include everything from Shirley Temple's tap shoes and Oscar trophy to the typewriter used to write the script for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

Screen-used tap shoes and practice steps given to Shirley Temple by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson for the stair-steps routine in "The Little Colonel;" Juvenile Oscar awarded to Temple for the eight films she made in 1934; standee for "Stand Up and Cheer;" and Temple's Fox Studios set chair. Part of the collection of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Screen-used tap shoes and practice steps given to Shirley Temple by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson for the stair-steps routine in "The Little Colonel;" Juvenile Oscar awarded to Temple for the eight films she made in 1934; standee for "Stand Up and Cheer;" and Temple's Fox Studios set chair. Part of the collection of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Joshua White

Lucasfilm producer Kathleen Kennedy said in her opening remarks at the tour that the film community of Los Angeles has been eagerly awaiting a world-class museum dedicated to the medium that put the city on the map:

"I think I share with many of you in this room, that we're all kind of incredulous that this could be a company town and we don't have a motion picture museum," Kennedy said. "We should have the world's most preeminent motion picture museum and now we have the opportunity to have that."

Rendering of a movie theater at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of a movie theater at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Below are excerpts from John Horn's interview with museum director Kerry Brougher, on a morning when journalists were given a tour of the site. To listen to the full piece, click on the player above. For photos, click on the slideshow above.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

How to build a museum dedicated to film:

The Academy is made up of all these great artists. And these artists collaborate together to make these films. So what I wanted to do was actually create a permanent exhibition which took a look at the moviemaking process, all the way from the 19th Century to the present. That is the heart of the museum. Then it's important to have temporary exhibitions just like it is in any museum, in which you're constantly rotating and doing deep dives into certain directors, retrospectives, or even various social issues or thematic exhibitions.

Typewriter used by Joseph Stefano to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Gift of Michael Eisenberg care of "The Estate of Joseph Stefano," part of the collection for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Typewriter used by Joseph Stefano to write the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Gift of Michael Eisenberg care of "The Estate of Joseph Stefano," part of the collection for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Joshua White

On the Academy Museum's sphere:

I think the idea of a sphere is actually something that Renzo [Piano] wanted to do that comes out of a thinking process about what a movie theater is ... A theater is a machine that you climb into. And that machine then takes you somewhere else. It's a transportation machine, a vehicle for getting you one place to somewhere else. So in a movie theater you sit down and you're launched into some other time, some other exotic location, destination, other people's lives. And I think he wanted to actually create a kind of machine that looked like it would take you somewhere else.

Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Designing the museum to work with its exhibitions:

I've had some great talks with Renzo about this. And I think we have a kind of nice understanding of one another in what our needs have been. I actually feel like we need to think about the architecture when we're actually creating the exhibitions. One of the great things is that Renzo's sensibility with architecture just naturally lends itself to a kind of cinematic concept. Because what he likes to do is to work with light and shadow a lot and that's what we like to do with these exhibitions as well. Light and shadow is even a subject that we can tackle here at this museum. He also works with compression and expansion. Small intimate moments and then bursts out with big landscapes. And film is very much that way too. You have quiet moments and you have very exciting scenes that then happen.

Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Rendering of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

How touring the museum will be like a movie:

 You'll be on a journey. You'll be a little bit like Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz." You want to go off on an adventure and you'll come back with better knowledge about yourself and everyone else and about film when you come out of the museum. The whole museum is the Yellow Brick Road, I think.

Screen-used close-up pair of the Ruby Slippers, designed by Adrian, from "The Wizard of Oz." These are part of the collection of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Screen-used close-up pair of the Ruby Slippers, designed by Adrian, from "The Wizard of Oz." These are part of the collection of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Joshua White

To hear John Horn's full interview with Kerry Brougher, click on the player above. View photos from the tour and the museum collection in the slideshow above.

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