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Visiting the Academy Museum? Your guide for what to see, eat and experience

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, seen at dusk, with its giant spherical theater.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, opens to the public on Sept. 30.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
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Originally set to open in 2017, the long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures finally makes its public debut Thursday.

And the wait turned out to be a good thing, writes The Times’ Mary McNamara.

The years of delay coincided with so much revelation, outrage, admission and change within the film academy and the cinematic world.

If the museum had miraculously hit its original opening date, it would have been a far less interesting or important place. So much has happened since: In 2017, the academy ousted Harvey Weinstein; in 2020, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” swept the Oscars; in 2021, Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” won best picture and Zhao became the second woman to win an Oscar for directing.

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Here’s a guide to take in the best that the museum has to offer and our tips to make a full day of the experience.

The Pritzker Prize-winning Italian architect says that L.A.'s new film museum responds to the evolving city

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The best movie magic on display

Objects on view at the Academy Museum, including the "Moonlight" best picture card
(Mikki Paek / For The Times)

What are the most interesting objects on view at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures? We asked more than 20 insiders — museum employees who have been living and breathing with bits of movie history for months or, in some cases, years. They shared their favorites, and the picks are fascinating.

See for yourself >>

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures held a press conference on Tuesday and media toured the finished galleries.

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And yes, there’s a special room for fans of “Star Wars,” “Alien” and other sci-fi favorites, featuring C-3PO and R2-D2 on display. While browsing out-of-this-world characters, keep an eye out for the paranormal. Legend has it that ghosts roam the halls of the museum.

Meanwhile, Hayao Miyazaki fans are treated to a temporary exhibition featuring its own majestic Mother Tree — a massive, luminous installation that has been in the works for four years.

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Long-overdue recognition

A woman in a purple blouse seated at a wooden table.
Patricia Cardoso, director of “Real Women Have Curves,” poses for a portrait at the W Hotel.
(Michael Nagle / For The Times)

The singular importance of “Real Women Have Curves,” and director Patricia Cardoso’s contribution to the film canon, are getting some long-overdue recognition as part of an exhibit in the Significant Movies and Movie Makers gallery.

More on her story and the celebrated gallery >>

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In fact, a special team of mostly women at the Academy Museum has surfaced the intriguing back stories and undertold contributions of women in filmmaking.

The Times joins the acclaimed director of ‘Do the Right Thing’ and ‘Malcolm X’ to preview an exhibit saluting his career in film.

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Spot the hawk and architectural achievements

A hawk flies over the Academy Museum dome.
Spencer is a 4-year-old Harris’s hawk hired to chase birds away from the dome of the Academy Museum to help keep the building’s glass clean.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s the Academy Museum hawk!

A 4-year-old Harris’s hawk named Spencer has an important job: to fly above the museum and its gleaming glass dome to ward off pigeons that could nest or mar the new landmark with poop.

His services run from $150 to $325 per visit and more fun facts. >>

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While you’re squinting up at the sun, take a moment to appreciate the details of the museum’s architecture.

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Make a day of it. 8 walkable sights nearby

Animated illustration of other L.A. landmarks near Academy Museum, such as LACMA and Craft Contemporary
(Mikki Paek / For The Times)

The Grove and the Original Farmers Market are not far away. So is one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, République.

Times staff writers have eight other walkable destinations for your consideration.

Take the tour >>

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Did someone say lunch?

An illustration of people seated in red chairs in a restaurant.
(Konstantin Kakanias )

Some of L.A.’s most storied Old Hollywood haunts have gone the way of silent film, but the masterminds behind Fanny’s restaurant in the museum are working to ensure visitors will still feel traces of that long-ago era.

The restaurant will feature an art exhibit devoted to vaudeville star Fanny Brice, the restaurant’s namesake and the grandmother of donor Wendy Stark (as well as the inspiration for the 1968 movie “Funny Girl”).

Take a look >>

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