10 Reasons to Be Excited About the Academy Museum

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Saban Building. Photo by Josh White, JWPictures — ©Academy Museum Foundation

With 50,000 square feet of gallery space, two theaters, dining and more, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has long been a dream of the Academy, awards enthusiasts, and film fans around the world. Located along LA’s Miracle Mile, the museum is housed in the historic Saban Building, first constructed in 1939. The Academy Museum is situated near several of the city’s premiere theaters, including LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

After a number of setbacks and delays, the museum is ready to welcome visitors from around the world when it opens to the public on September 30, 2021.

This week, the Academy Museum Foundation hosted a virtual event to share some of the exciting things visitors will be able to experience this fall. Here are ten things we can look forward to at the Academy Museum:

1. Beginning in April, the Academy Museum will hold virtual conversations, events, and other programming.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Dolby Family Terrace. Photo by Josh White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation

When AMPAS announced their diversity initiatives last year, plans included a series of conversations that would explore the past and future of equity and inclusion. The first of these, “Breaking the Oscars® Ceiling,” will be held just three days before the Academy Awards, on April 22. Whoopi Goldberg, Marlee Matlin, and Buffy Sainte-Marie will share their experiences. Additional events include conversations with Academy Award-winners Hildur Guðnadóttir and Spike Lee, anniversary celebrations of Dees Ree’s Pariah and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, and more.

2. The Museum will feature five floors of exhibition space.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Cross-section — ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop; ©Academy Museum Foundation

The 50,000+ square feet of gallery space expands over five floors which will take visitors through the art AND the science of motion pictures. Exhibitions, some permanent and some temporary, will provide opportunities to engage with movie crafts including sound, visual effects, and composition. These spaces will also confront and discuss troublesome issues from throughout cinema, not shying away from uncomfortable truths about cinema’s past and present.

3 Bruce the Shark, Rosebud, and other cinematic artifacts

“Bruce the Shark” installation at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. Photo by Todd Wawrychuk — ©Academy Museum Foundation

Visitors will be greeted by Bruce the Shark, the surviving animatronic shark from the movie Jaws. Bruce is already in place in the Spielberg Family Gallery, his new permanent home. Other special treasures will include Rosebud from Citizen Kane, C3P0 from the Star Wars films, vignettes which explore cinematography and editing, makeup kits, models, and script pages. In other words, this will be a wondrous trove of history.

4. The David Geffen Theater

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, David Geffen Theater. Photo by Iwan Baan — ©Iwan Baan Studios, Courtesy of Academy Museum Foundation

The stunning David Geffen Theater is housed within the spherical building adjacent to the Saban Building. This 1000-seat theater which will host screenings, premieres, and other events. The Geffen Theater can project films in digital, 16mm, 35mm, 70mm, and nitrate. In addition to a state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos sound system, there is also an orchestra pit with the capacity for a 60-piece orchestra.

5. The Ted Mann Theater

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Ted Mann Theater. Photo by Josh White, JWPictures — ©Academy Museum Foundation

Situated beneath the Saban Building and the Geffen Theater is the 288-seat Ted Mann theater. This space will host daily screenings of short films and features, as well as special events, conversations in a smaller and more intimate space.

6. Celebrate Awards history in the Oscar Gallery

Gallery of Oscar statuettes in Stories of Cinema, ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image by WHY Architecture

Oscar fans, there’s a place for you at the Academy museum! The Oscar Gallery is a beautifully curated exhibit space which will include real Oscar statuettes, gowns worn to past ceremonies (like Rita Moreno’s dress from 1962), and visual discussions about issues such as #OscarsSoWhite. The Oscars Experience will also be an immersive opportunity for visitors to feel the thrill of walking onto the stage to accept an Academy Award.

7. A celebration of the history and development of animation

Steam-Driven Praxinoscope with Animation Strips, Ernst Plank, wood, tin, brass, paint, glass mirror and cotton string with print on paper strips, c. 1904, Germany, from the Richard Balzer Collection, gift of Patricia S. Bellinger, Photo by Joshua White/JWPictures — ©Academy Museum Foundation

From Lotte Reiniger to Pete Docter, explore the tools, toys, and processes of creating animated film in all different varieties and styles including hand-drawn, stop-motion, and digital. See the Toy Story zoetrope, character designs like Jack Skellington, and vignettes detailing the way animated films bring drawings to life. Just like in other areas of the museum, animation’s problematic past will receive new light as viewers can see the troubling way stereotypes and racist images were ingrained in family programming and beyond.

8 Educating the next generation

Shirley Temple Education Studio, ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/ ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from Cristiano Zaccaria


The Academy Museum will provide year-round programming for children and families, as well as classes and experiences geared to K-12 schools. Students will have the chance to learn by doing. Whether it is cinematography, sound effects and foley, editing, or directing, these programs will teach the processes of making movies in fun, innovative ways.

9. Exploring a movie from start to finish

One section of the Stories of Cinema will take visitors through the entire process of making a movie. This is expected to be a long-term but not permanent installation, where the films will change over time. But starting with The Wizard of Oz, learn how Frank Bahm’s children’s book became a screenplay and then a film. Where did the Ruby Slippers come from? How was Judy Garland cast in the role of Dorothy Gale? How did the Yellow Brick Road come to life? Costumes, hair, makeup, visual effects, and more. This will be a visual feast as well as a deeply educational experience.

10 The museum will host the first North American retrospective of the work of Hayao Miyazaki

Production Imageboard, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004); © 2004 Studio Ghibli – NDDMT

Celebrate the Oscar-winning director and ground-breaking animator Hayao Miyazaki in this incredible collection. More than 300 objects including storyboards, layouts, characters designs, etc, from Miyazaki’s amazing career will immerse visitors into the world of Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro. Many of the pieces will be leaving Japan for the first time and will surely be a popular and exciting showcase. This exhibit is more than just a collection of pretty artwork. It is designed as an interactive journey through Studio Ghibli’s decades of wonder.

This is just a peek at everything the Academy Museum will have to offer. Exhibits will change, conversations will expand, and there will always be something new to see. There are already plans underway for “what comes next.”

The Academy Museum is set to open to the public September 30, 2021.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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