The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have taken a step toward realizing a museum dedicated to motion pictures and the creation of a new and unique cultural center for the city of Los Angeles. On Tuesday night (10/4), the Academy’s Board of Governors joined their LACMA counterparts in agreeing to sign a memorandum of understanding to work in good faith in establishing the Academy’s movie museum in the historic May Company building, currently known as LACMA West. The memo paves the way for the two organizations to discuss details of a future contract and for the Academy to begin developing plans for fundraising, design, exhibitions, visitor experience, and modifications to this historic site.
“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,” said co-chair of the LACMA Board of Trustees Terry Semel. “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.”
According to Academy President Tom Sherak, “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.”
Plans by various groups to create a movie museum date back to the mid-1960s, but Tuesday night’s vote represents the most significant step yet taken in bringing these hopes to fruition. The Academy hopes to sign a long-term lease for the facility, and will retain autonomy over all aspects of its museum while benefiting from LACMA’s experience in managing a premier arts institution.
The Academy will mount a new fundraising campaign for the museum, which will give visitors an entertaining and interactive experience illuminating the way movies reflect culture and the impact they have upon it. The museum is expected to feature both permanent and rotating exhibitions inside the facility’s 300,000 gross square feet.
LACMA West, which formerly housed the May Company department store, was built in 1939, one of the greatest years in film history with such releases as “Gone with the Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” “Finally, our industry will have a dedicated space where we can inform and excite people about the endless range and possibilities of motion pictures,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “This new facility will make our resources and activities – our programming, our archives, and our library – even more visible and accessible all year round.” According to LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan, “This represents a seismic shift in the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, and an extraordinary new r
Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones & no texting please, don’t talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don’t forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
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-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work on SilentHollywood.com