LOS ANGELES — After a lengthy and difficult journey, America’s first major museum dedicated to movies is nearly here. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — currently under construction in Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles — is officially set to open in late 2019, and it has just announced its inaugural exhibitions. Housed in the overhauled May Company Building (renamed the Saban Building) with its iconic Streamline Moderne facade, as well as a new spherical structure incorporating a thousand-seat theater and a glass-domed terrace, the Academy has announced its ambition, for the museum to become a focal point of film culture.
The museum’s first long-term exhibition will be Where Dreams Are Made: A Journey Inside the Movies. An elaborate production laid out across 30,000 feet over two floors, it will incorporate numerous artifacts from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ collection into multiple installations on both historical and contemporary film production. Different galleries will showcase material on screenwriting, visual effects, the technological dimension of filmmaking, how creators have responded to real-world events in their work, and more. Items from the Academy’s vault include Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the doors from Rick’s Café Américain from Casablanca, Harpo Marx’s wig, hat, makeup bag, and stage makeup, and much more.
The museum will also have temporary exhibitions in its Hurd and Katzenberg galleries. The Hurd will house Transcending Boundaries, an interactive installation created by the Tokyo art collective teamLab. The museum’s theaters will play host to a robust film program, including screening series tied to its exhibitions.
The Katzenberg will feature Hayao Miyazaki, a retrospective on the life and work of the legendary Japanese animator, put together by Jessica Niebel, the Museum’s Exhibitions Curator. Museum Director Kerry Brougher says of the exhibit: “I felt it was important to establish the museum right away as global in scope, and who better to do that with than the masterful and beloved Hayao Miyazaki, who has never had a retrospective in the United States? The exhibition will present more than 200 concept sketches, character designs, storyboards, layouts, cels, backgrounds, film clips, and immersive environments.”
In fall 2020, the Miyazaki exhibition will be replaced with Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970. Doris Berger, the Museum’s Acting Head of Curatorial Affairs, will be co-curating the exhibition with Rhea Combs, Supervisory Curator of Photography and Film at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. According to Brougher: “The Academy Museum is committed to revisionist and inclusive approaches to film history. Regeneration will be a groundbreaking, scholarly exhibition that reveals the important and largely unrecognized history of African-American filmmakers in the development of American cinema, and explores African-American representation in the motion picture from its advent until the Civil Rights Era. The exhibition will feature posters, lobby cards, photographs, costumes, film clips, miscellaneous material culture, and contemporary art.”
With its opening gambit, the Academy Museum is asserting itself as more than a space to house a bunch of well-known movie props. If the new institution truly strives to incorporate the full, diverse elements within the craft and history of film, then it could be one of the more important new museums in the country.