Motion Picture Academy unveils new drawings for film museum


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has unveiled new concept drawings for its film museum — including a giant, domed theater structure — to open in 2017 at the historic May Co. building on the LACMA campus at Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

The plans will require the demolition of a back portion of the building, which was added on in 1946, to make room for the orb-shaped, glass-topped structure that will be connected to the original building and will feature a 1,000-seat theater and a terrace with an expansive view of Hollywood. As announced Monday, the theater will be named for David Geffen, who has donated $25 million to the museum.

Italian architect Renzo Piano called the new structure a “soap bubble,” a “dirigible,” “a sphere” and said it reminded him of “a spaceship landing” in a conversation with L.A. Times editors and reporters Thursday to discuss the museum project.


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“I want it to feel that it’s about the wonder of cinema-making,” added the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, who is working with fellow architect Zoltan Pali on the design.

The academy will hold an “Inaugural Celebration” this evening at the May Co. site to thank donors to the museum, for which it hopes to raise $300 million for construction. More than half of that has already been collected.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art owns the building, and the academy has taken out a 110-year lease on the property.

According to Heather Cochran, managing director of museum project, the organization is about to embark on the Environmental Impact Report process, which should last 12 to 18 months.

Cochran said the construction process could last 30 months, and academy CEO Dawn Hudson is hopeful the museum will open in 2017.


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The academy says the museum will feature six levels of exhibition and programming space, including more than 30,000 square feet of “flexible exhibition galleries.” A 15,000-square-foot landscaped public piazza will serve as a gathering space for visitors and connect the museum with the LACMA campus. Piano was quick to point out that much of the ground floor of the museum will be free and open to the public.

In the past few years the academy has acquired a few iconic pieces of memorabilia that are likely to be featured in the museum’s permanent collection, including a slew of historic movie posters and the ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”

In the academy’s program for Thursday evening’s event, there is special thanks given to Michael Eisenberg for his donation of iconic movie costumes and to Dr. Gary Milan for the mahogany-colored statuette of the Maltese Falcon and the piano from Rick’s Cafe Americain from “Casablanca.”

Academy officials said entrance fees for the museum would likely be $12 to $15 a ticket. They plan numerous interactive exhibits highlighting the behind-the-scenes of movie-making.



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