What the new movie museum could mean for LACMA

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Many are already calling plans for a new movie museum run by the Motion Picture Academy in the old May Co. building on the LACMA campus a win-win. Two years ago LACMA suspended its renovation plans for the building, above, for financial reasons. And for many years the Academy has had dreams of a museum, without owning the right kind of building to house it.

But looking at what LACMA stands to gain and lose, the balance sheet reads a bit differently.


On the plus side, LACMA stands to receive an unspecified amount of money for leasing their building to the Academy. And down the road the institution stands to gain attendance from having another tourist destination so close at hand. ‘We would expect that it would bring new and different visitors to the LACMA campus,’ says LACMA trustee Willow Bay, who describes this new alliance as part of LACMA director Michael Govan’s larger vision for reaching new constituents and recognizing the importance of film.

On the downside, there is the loss of control over campus content, as public statements about the undertaking have said that the Academy ‘will retain autonomy over all aspects of its museum.’ Art blogger William Poundstone translates: ‘What some in the art world must be thinking: LACMA diminishes itself by bringing a non-art tourist attraction onto its campus.’

More practically, LACMA is giving up its plans for additional exhibition space, office space and new children’s activity areas originally planned for that spot. Zoltan Pali, founder of SPFA of Culver City, was the architect hired to handle the renovation of the building before the downturn of 2008 and the project was put on hold. He says of the five-story, 300,000-square-foot building, ‘Generally speaking, the idea was that the first two levels would have been predominantly art-related activities, gallery spaces. And the other levels would have been their offices.’

Pali recently did ‘due diligence’ studies for LACMA and the Academy to see if the vision for a motion picture museum could fit the space. ‘It’s very doable, but it’s a much more difficult fit for what they want to do than what LACMA wanted to do because of space requirements,’ he says, confirming that exhibitions and screenings both are in store.

And where does the much-discussed idea of having the artist James Turrell do an installation or ‘skyspace’ on the roof of the May Co. fit into all of this? ‘That was a very old idea, to do something on the roof,’ Govan told Times reporter Nicole Sperling. ‘All of that is waiting for the Academy to draw up its plans. The idea is we would share the rooftop and integrate art into the spaces up there.’



Academy has long sought to build prominent film museum in L.A.

LACMA partners with Motion Picture Academy on new movie museum

--Jori Finkel