During last year’s airing of the Academy Awards, Tom Hanks, the actor and trustee of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, announced that the nearly $500-million Renzo Piano–designed museum would welcome the public come that December. Only in retrospect does Hanks’s notice ring with a special optimism: just a month later the country went into lockdown, prompting the Academy Museum to delay its opening indefinitely.
But cinephiles and Piano-stans won’t have to wait too much longer to get their fix. Yesterday, the Academy Museum announced a revised opening date of September 30th, 2021, which it said conformed with CDC safety guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Teasing photographs, immersive features, and its 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, the institution also offered a sneak peek at coming attractions. “Global in outlook and grounded in the unparalleled collections and expertise of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,” its updated website claims, “the Academy Museum will offer exceptional exhibitions and programs that illuminate the world of cinema.”
Among the newly released materials, a section drawing reveals that two floors of the restored 1939 Saban (formerly May Company) Building will be devoted to permanent exhibitions bearing the curatorial name Stories of Cinema. Designed by local firm wHY Architecture, these displays will showcase a portion of the Academy’s vast collection, which numbers 12.5 millions photographs, 237,000 film and video assets, 133,000 pieces of production art, and 65,000 film posters. A gallery of Oscar statuettes and an immersive “Oscars experience” that simulates the atmosphere of a typical Awards night round out the diversions.
The fourth-floor Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery will be given over to temporary shows. The inaugural exhibition is devoted to the work of legendary Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki and will include original image boards, character designs, film posters, and large-scale immersive environments. (Sense a theme?) The 288-seat Ted Mann Theatre and the Shirley Temple Education Studio, both located on subterranean floors, will engage smaller-scale audiences on the nature and process of filmmaking.
But the main draw remains the (rather unimaginatively named) Sphere Building, an extension to the Saban Building containing the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theatre, where visitors can take in lectures, symposia, and, of course, film screenings. This contemporary wing bears the meticulous handiwork of Piano, most notably in the sweeping glass dome that shelters a terrace space above the theatre. From here, the public will enjoy unobstructed views of the Hollywood Hills and the greater Los Angeles area.
In addition to these details, the Academy Museum also confirmed a slate of virtual public programs beginning this April, comprising panel discussions, screenings, and gallery tours. “The programs we are rolling out for our opening are dynamic, diverse, and deeply grounded in the history and artistry of filmmaking,” said Chief Artistic and Programming Officer Jacqueline Stewart in a press statement. “Whether they are recognizing Hollywood legends, delving into the working process of film professionals, or addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, and inequity that run through film history, these programs will use the powers of movies and stories of filmmakers to open eyes and minds.”