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Academy Museum pushes opening date again, citing rising COVID-19 infection rates

The spherical theater attached to the historic May Company building at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
The Sphere building of the Academy Museum, photographed in February. The museum has pushed its opening to fall 2021.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

It was inevitable, all things considered: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has pushed back its opening date, again, citing rising COVID-19 infection rates, restrictions on public gatherings and ongoing museum closures.

The opening is now set for Sept. 30.

The museum planned to open on Dec. 14, 2020, a date announced at the Oscars this year. But over the summer, because of the coronavirus crisis, the museum pushed that date to April 30. Now, with health officials projecting that much of the public may not have access to COVID-19 vaccines until summer, fall has become a safer bet.

“We only want to make the move once and we feel like there’s still too much uncertainty around how the vaccine will roll out in the spring to open any sooner than September,” museum director Bill Kramer said in an interview. “We want to open strong in the fall and with certainty.”

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L.A. County saw a record 22,469 new coronavirus new cases on Wednesday, as well as a record 134 deaths. The availability of ICU beds in Southern California plummeted to 0.5%. Except for a few weeks this summer, indoor museums have been closed in L.A. County for nine months straight.

The $482-million Renzo Piano-designed museum has been a decades-long odyssey that has suffered construction delays and cost overruns, leadership changes and internal conflicts. Kramer said that construction on the building is finished and the museum is finalizing exhibition installation as well as building out its restaurant and store. It reached its $388-million preopening fundraising campaign goal in mid-November.

“We’re totally ready for an April opening,” Kramer said. “But this is about the health and well being of our staff and visitors.”

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The museum plans to hold its inaugural fundraising gala Sept. 25, tied to the opening. The event will honor “multiple people from the world of cinema,” Kramer said, declining to reveal any names.

In January film historian, scholar and archivist Jacqueline Stewart will join the museum as chief artistic and programming officer, overseeing exhibitions, programming and education.

2020 decimated our cultural and entertainment institutions. Artists have readjusted their ways of working. Many wonder if they can continue their craft even after the pandemic. Yet we’ve also seen resilience and creativity.


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