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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

LABJ Insider: Academy Museum Gets Ready for Its Closeup

In a bit of auspicious but coincidental timing, the long-delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures offered up a peek behind the scenes last week, just before the long-awaited return of customers to movie theaters in Los Angeles County.

This still being Covid times, the museum’s impressive walk-through for the media was virtual. But the local theater openings will be real, although limited in capacity as well as viewing options.

Both developments came one year after the pandemic shutdown kicked in, changing life in L.A. and everywhere else in innumerable ways.

While there’s a long way to go before we arrive at something resembling normal, these moves, in part, reflect recent progress made through rising vaccination rates and declining Covid-19 infections in L.A.

And in some ways, they provide a signal of what’s ahead in coming months.

The Renzo Piano-designed campus, dedicated to the highest-profile of L.A. industries and located in the heart of Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, is now scheduled to open on Sept. 30.

Think of it as a carrot at the end of a very long stick.

“Design is important in filmmaking, as it is in building museums,” said Bill Kramer, the Academy Museum’s director and president. “We definitely paid very close attention in working with Renzo Piano. Filmmaking is a collaborative art, (and) building a museum is the same thing. … We worked with the best to create experiences that will blow you away. We want you to be wowed not just by content but by space itself.”

Having toured the in-progress museum in person before the pandemic, and now seeing the strides that have been made as well as learning details of what it will contain, it’s a good bet that the new arrival will be a welcome and overdue addition to the city’s business and cultural landscape.

The museum’s two buildings will house, for instance, an exhibit dedicated to “The Wizard of Oz.” Rosebud from “Citizen Kane” will be on display. Another area will use “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to show how sound helps movies come together.

Costumes and props and other items from classic and contemporary films will rotate though the halls. And Oscar statuettes from 1927 to 2016 will be shined up and lined up.

Two theaters and se
veral community spaces are contained within the complex to host screenings, speakers and educational programs.

Kramer and Jacqueline Stewart, chief artistic and programming director, were keen to point out that the museum will not shy away from hot-button issues such as social justice, the Time’s Up movement, #OscarsSoWhite and more.

“We want people to see themselves reflected in film history, to learn about artists that are completely new to them. And we want to tell diverse stories about the history of cinema and where it’s going,” Kramer said.

Now let’s just hope Covid retreats enough for the red carpet to be rolled out later this year, so Hollywood and the world can finally experience all that the museum has to offer.

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