Planners Will Raise Curtain on $60-Million Hollywood Museum

Times Staff Writer

Despite months of delay and continuing questions over fund raising, planners are ready to raise the curtain on designs for a $60-million, two-phase Hollywood museum that will use computer terminals, film and high-tech gadgetry to exhibit the growth and glamour of the entertainment industry.

Hollywood Exposition, the nonprofit group heading the state-supported project, has scheduled a press conference this morning to announce the layout and design scheme for the 150,000-square-foot museum.

The designs call for extensive theater space, computerized research archives and button-activated mechanical displays providing a historical look at Hollywood’s four major industries--motion pictures, television, radio and recording.

$922-Million Redevelopment


Hollywood Exposition plans to become part of the $150-million Melvin Simon office and entertainment complex to be built on land surrounding Mann’s Chinese Theatre, with the entire completed project envisioned as a cornerstone of Hollywood’s $922-million redevelopment effort. Troubled negotiations between the museum backers and Melvin Simon have delayed agreement for more than a year, but the two sides are hopeful of resolving their differences in a matter of weeks, said Phyllis Holzman Caskey, the museum’s executive director.

The deadlock, which threatened to derail the project earlier this year, resulted from a disagreement over fund raising, Caskey said. Museum officials, needing $60 million to $65 million to build the museum and its exhibits, planned to launch a fund-raising drive as soon as the site agreement was signed.

Melvin Simon officials, who declined to discuss negotiations, wanted to see money raised before committing such a large amount of space to the museum, Caskey said.

“I think they would have liked to have seen $60 million” in hand, she said. “And I understand that. What’s being worked out now is a compromise.”


The plan is for the museum to open at substantially less than its full size. In return, Melvin Simon would not insist on money being available at the outset.

“We’re not starting the fund raising (yet), and they’re willing to take a risk on a lesser level,” Caskey said.

As a result, the museum will be built in stages, the first to open in about three years, the second phase two years later, she said.

Critics, including many who have lashed out against Hollywood’s redevelopment plan, said the delays and problems have raised questions about the nonprofit group established to create the museum.

Hollywood Exposition was established by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), who became the unpaid president of the organization and won passage of state legislation in 1985 that gave the group $785,000 in funding. Caskey, a former aide to Roberti, became executive director of the group at an initial salary of about $50,000 a year, compared to her previous state salary of $41,376, Roberti said.

Robert Nudelman, former project director of a small Hollywood museum that recently folded, criticized the legislator for handing the state contract to his own group, rather than seeking competitive bids as recommended by state contract guidelines. Roberti’s decision kept the museum out of the hands of The Hollywood Museum, Nudelman’s organization, and others such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which also had been interested in constructing a museum.

“We offered to help and we were told, ‘We don’t need your help,’ ” Nudelman said.

The academy, under then-President Gene Allen, itself had been contemplating a large Hollywood film museum, the kind of first-class showcase that “would not let Oscar down,” Allen said. But the organization had yet to find a site and ultimately put its project on the shelf when Roberti’s plans were announced.


“We just decided to back off,” the academy’s Bruce Davis said, adding that the action caused no hard feelings. “It just didn’t make sense to butt heads.”

Although Nudelman questioned whether Roberti had violated state conflict-of-interest laws by voting to award money to his own group, the laws say there is no conflict unless the legislator also receives a direct financial benefit, such as a salary. Likewise, state laws allow for legislators to bypass competitive-bid requirements in cases where an exemption is considered beneficial to the state.

“Everything that was done was legal,” Roberti said, responding to the charges. He noted that Nudelman’s museum--4,000 square feet--had folded and that the academy’s plan was to build a motion-picture museum, not a museum dedicated to all of the entertainment industry.

“I don’t think I was ever at cross purposes with them at all,” Roberti said. Otherwise, “I would have been Johnny on the spot talking to them.”

Critics questioned whether the new museum will succeed even if Roberti’s group reaches a development agreement on the site. The $60 million that the group must raise is more than double what the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has raised to fund its newly completed, 100,000-square-foot facility on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles.

The Hollywood museum is expecting to rely on a $5 to $6 admission charge, plus cafe receipts and souvenir concessions, to offset operating expenses.

Richard W. Lambert, senior vice president of Newport Beach-based Brakeley, John Price Jones Inc., said raising money should not be a problem. The consulting firm has yet to formally ask for support, but it has begun talks with the many large private donors that would supply perhaps 80% of the money needed for the project, Lambert said.