Not wasting any time getting the fundraising effort started on the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, AMPAS president Tom Sherak and CEO Dawn Hudson have landed a big fish to chair their capital fundraising effort: Walt Disney President and CEO Bob Iger (whose ABC network happens to air the Oscar telecast), along with fellow Academy members Annette Bening and Tom Hanks as co-chairs.
During a phone interview, Sherak admitted that as soon as the Memorandum of Understanding (which gives the Academy 18 months to raise funding) with LACMA was closed, they had a reason to pursue this long-held dream as quickly as possible. The museum would already exist without the 2007/2008 recession, he insists. “We didn’t let the dream get away from us. It’s now becoming real again.” To that end the Academy is endowing $50 million in seed money, for starters. And Iger quickly agreed when asked to chair. “He saw what this museum would mean to the industry and LA, putting a lot of people to work, and bringing people from all over the world to see what we do as a community,” said Sherak.
The Academy and LACMA are working together to create the Academy Museum at LACMA’s 300,000 square-foot May Company building at Fairfax and WIlshire, twice the size of their originally planned structure. The Academy is betting that partnering with LACMA and using an existing facility instead of building from scratch will help them to raise the hundreds of millions they could not get in an unforgiving economy. But they now need half of the $400 million they needed before. The Academy and LACMA are hoping to have a completed museum within five years.
This partnership was the brainchild of LACMA chief Michael Govan (who collaborated with then-Film Independent chief Hudson on LACMA’s film program), who has built twelve museums over the years. He approached the Academy a year and a half ago. The two organizations plan to create both permanent and rotating exhibitions, as well as an interactive exp;oration of the evolution of the movies.
The Academy has been talking about a movie museum since the 60s. They developed plans for a hi-tech interactive celebration of Hollywood, hired and fired museum design firms and French architect Christian de Portzamparc, and sought helpful suggestions from the industry’s best and brightest (from Leonard Maltin to Steven Spielberg), but yielded little progress beyond a controversial $50-million construction site on Vine that still needs to be cleaned up. Some early members of the Museum committee felt strongly that the long-awaited museum should be located in Hollywood on those blocks adjacent to their Mary Pickford Study Center, which houses the Academy’s film archives and theater. The Academy will hang onto the property, and plans to turn it into an outdoor theater and exhibition site while the museum gets up and running. Heather Cochran remains in the charge of the museum effort on the Academy side.
“The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures represents a bold new way of saving and presenting film history,” said Iger. “It will innovate not only the museum experience, but also the public’s relationship to the art form.”
The museum “will give so much to our city, to historians, and to visitors from all over the world, who love movies,” said Bening.
Added Hanks: “The movies have done so much to shape world culture and our own lives. Preserving and sharing their history with the public should be an important undertaking for us all.”