Hollywood’s temple is now open: A tour of LA’s massive Academy Museum

Photo: Courtesy dpa

The inauguration was postponed many times, but now the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles has finally opened its doors. After a star-studded opening ceremony, visitors are now touring Hollywood’s first film museum – a palace of superlatives.

Lady Gaga showed up in an off-the-shoulder haute couture, Nicole Kidman in an airy floral dress, Sophia Loren in gold sequins. Look like a star when you shop designer ball gowns for prom.

The opening gala for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at the end of September drew countless Oscar winners and stars, including Spike Lee, Tom Hanks, Cher, Warren Beatty, Halle Berry and “Nomadland” director Chloe Zhao.

Now, after many delays, the new Academy Museum in Los Angeles has opened its doors to all visitors from September 30 onwards.

The building was an ambitious 480 million dollar project by Italian star architect Renzo Piano. Spread over seven floors of a huge domed building, it celebrates the history, art and science of film.

This is an important milestone for this city, as Oscar-winner Tom Hanks, a member of the board, noted during a press tour before the opening.

Wonderful films are made all over the world, but in a place like Los Angeles, this museum, created by the Academy of Oscars, really must be “the Parthenon” of all film museums, the actor trumpeted, likening this museum to one of the most famous architectural monuments of ancient Greece.

To its credit, this is the first film museum in Los Angeles – and also the largest institution of its kind in the US.

At the heart of the spherical construction is – what else – a cinema with no less than 1,000 seats, above it a huge terrace, and in the far distance the famous Hollywood sign can be seen.

Stars like Steven Spielberg, Barbra Streisand and George Lucas donated to the construction, while film studios, foundations and the super-rich also wrote cheques.

Visitors are reminded of this by the Spielberg Gallery, the Barbra Streisand Bridge and the Netflix Terrace.

Some pillars are named after film greats like Sophia Loren, Tony Curtis or Rita Moreno, for a million dollar donation each. The huge entrance hall is named after the legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who was the first black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1964 for the film “Lilies of the Field”.

The museum covers almost 30,000 square meters. A gallery area of 4,700 square meters displays parts of the Oscar Academy’s massive collection, including film posters, scripts, props and costumes.

The “Rosebud” sled from “Citizen Kane”, Dorothy’s red shoes from “The Wizard of Oz”, a dummy shark “Jaws”, the original typewriter on which the script for the Hitchcock thriller “Psycho” was written – the list of exhibits from classic films goes on and on.

In the gallery named after Spielberg, scenes from over 700 films from all over the world are shown on 10 screens. Various filmmakers also feature in several special exhibitions. Oscar winner Spike Lee shows a collection of artefacts that have influenced his work. Mexico’s Guillermo del Toro presents his fantasy creatures.

The work of Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki is honored with a comprehensive retrospective into the 80-year-old co-founder’s legendary animation studio Ghibli in Tokyo, known for films like “Spirited Away”.

Of course, Oscar trophies are also part of the museum’s collection, and the history of the Academy Awards from 1929 onwards is part of the exhibition.

Controversial topics are also addressed, such as the 1940 Oscars, when Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win an Oscar with her supporting role in the Southern epic “Gone with the Wind”.

At the award ceremony, however, as a black woman, she was not allowed to sit at the same table as the team, but was banished to the back of the room.

Museum visitors are offered a very memorable moment and can find out what it feels like to walk onto the Oscar stage in the Dolby Theatre to receive a trophy as part of “The Oscars Experience”.


Text by Barbara Munker, and photo: Courtesy © dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH