Cinephiles, the long wait is past. The Academy Museum has arrived in Los Angeles after years of construction, it is done.
Originally set to open in 2017, the Renzo Piano-designed museum is now due to open September 30th with a retooled, more inclusive vision: “Every delay has led to a better product,” says board chair Ted Sarandos. With the opening of the new Academy Museum on Sept. 30, the conversation about Hollywood’s history in all its complexity is taking place after nearly a century, thanks to the new museum. The $484 million museum is arriving after decades of false starts in fundraising, years of construction and pandemic-related delays. The timing, the museum’s leaders hope, will benefit both the institution and the medium it celebrates and critiques.
The new museum promises to deliver different movie history experiences for the different visitors expected to flock to its curations. For example, some exhibitions are designed to appeal squarely to the movie fan, like the Oscars Experience, where visitors are digitally transported into the Dolby Theatre to hear their names called, hold an Oscar and deliver a speech they can share on social media. The museum also displays such broadly appealing memorabilia as a fiberglass shark, known as Bruce, from Jaws and R2-D2 from Star Wars. Cinephiles will be in their element, there are deep cuts for serious students of cinema. One amusing artifact is a 1987 note Disney animator Frank Thomas mailed to future Pixar chief creative officer Pete Docter in response to a letter Docter had sent him as a young fan heading off to art school. “The new management at Disney has made many strange decisions,” Thomas wrote. Ah, archival evidence showing that creatives complaining about Disney executives is a long and glorious tradition. In an area devoted to casting, there are the handwritten notes casting director Marion Dougherty wrote upon meeting a young Diane Keaton, whom she called “just a darling auburn-haired girl.” There are also immersive experiences, as in the Miyazaki exhibit, where visitors can not only see the Japanese animator’s original storyboards but also have the sensory experience of being inside his movies like My Neighbor Totoro, entering through a tree tunnel and laying on a patch of green carpet and looking up at a blue sky. In a space devoted to music, co-created with Joker composer Hildur Gudnadóttir, visitors can linger in a meditative dark room taking in orchestral sounds.