The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures: 10 Things You Can't Miss

Plan your visit now.

Academy Museum Exterior 2021 Drone
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

As America’s largest institution devoted to the art and science of moviemaking, there’s always something to see at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Its enthralling exhibitions and experiences turn the dream factory inside out, delving deep beyond the screen to reveal the diverse stories of the creative people and processes behind the films we love.

With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ collection of more than 13 million objects to draw upon, plus temporary exhibitions, two state-of-the-art theaters, special events, and an ever-changing calendar of programs and screenings, the 300,000-square-foot museum merits regular repeat visits.

We looked at 10 things not to miss on your first time.

Academy Museum Oscars Night 2023
Photo: Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

OSCAR WEEK & OSCARS NIGHT
In the lead-up to the 95th Academy Awards, the museum is presenting screenings of Oscar-nominated shorts, as well as conversations with filmmakers nominated in short and feature film categories. Screenings and panels will take place in the museum's David Geffen Theater.

  • Animation (March 8)
  • Documentary (March 9)
  • Live Action Shorts & International Feature Films (March 10)
  • Makeup & Hairstyling (March 11)

On Oscars Night, the museum is hosting an unforgettable celebration of the 95th Academy Awards from 3pm to 10pm. Come dressed in your best Hollywood glam looks!

Tickets are $250 and include access to the David Geffen Theater to watch the Oscars live stream on ABC; gallery admission, food by Wolfgang Puck Catering, hosted bar, a commemorative gift, red carpet photography, photo booths, a 15% discount at the Academy Museum Store, Museum Member priority check-in and seating, and more.

Academy Museum Exterior Dome 2021
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

1. Architecture

The architecture of the Academy Museum alone justifies a visit. Its striking exterior by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano suggests something extremely special within. The museum occupies the 250,000-square-foot former May Company department store, a historic Streamline Moderne structure at the intersection of Wilshire Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. Dedicated as the Saban Building following a $50 million donation from philanthropists Cheryl and Haim Saban, its restoration included one third of the 350,000 gold-leaf mosaic tiles on its distinctive gold cylinder being meticulously replaced by their original Italian manufacturer. Piano also added the otherworldly Sphere. Overlaid with 1,500 multi-shaped glass shingles, this soaring structure houses the David Geffen Theater and the glass-domed Dolby Family Terrace, with views from the Hollywood Sign to the Getty Center.

"Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971" at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
"Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971" | Photo: Academy Museum

2. Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971

The first of its kind, “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971” is an in-depth, research-driven exploration of Black participation in American filmmaking. Now, through April 9, 2023, this feature exhibit reveals the important yet all too often unsung history of African American filmmakers in the development of this country’s cinema, from its early days to just after the civil rights movement. “Regeneration” highlights the work of independent African American filmmakers, with the goal of redefining US film history by elevating this underrepresented aspect of artistic production and presenting a more inclusive story.

Academy Museum Cinema Stories Costumes 2021
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

3. Collection Highlights

The Academy Museum draws upon not only its own incredible collection of film-related objects and technology, but also the unparalleled accumulation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, including literally millions of costumes, film reels, posters, props, production design drawing, screenplays and more. Get up close with evocative pieces of movie history like the menacing extraterrestrial headpiece worn in 1979’s “Alien”; Dorothy’s ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz”; the last surviving full-scale shark model from “Jaws”; an annotated page from Gregory Peck’s script for controversial 1962 classic “To Kill a Mockingbird”; and the typewriter used by screenwriter Joseph Stefano for Alfred Hitchcock’s genre-shaping horror thriller “Psycho.”

Academy Museum Stories Cinema 1 2021
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Academy Museum Stories Cinema 2 2021
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

4. Stories of Cinema Exhibition

The multi-floor “Stories of Cinema” is the Academy Museum’s ever-evolving core exhibition exploring narrative movies, documentaries, animation, and the multifarious arts and sciences behind them. It begins in the Grand Lobby of the Saban Building, where a towering glass-walled gallery and multiscreen experience serve as a free introduction. The second floor currently showcases the works and influences of Spike Lee; the history of the Academy Awards; the role and reflection of social issues in filmmaking; and, as a case study, the many disciplines that brought “The Wizard of Oz” to life. On the third floor, familiar faces like R2-D2, Bugs Bunny, and Okoye from “Black Panther” adorn the multi-room “Inventing Worlds & Characters” experience, alongside special installations by director Pedro Almodóvar, composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, and sound designer Ben Burtt.

Academy Museum Cinema Path 2021
Photo by Joshua White, Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

5. The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection

The late Richard Balzer was a collector and author fascinated by anything related to visual entertainment. His 9,000-piece collection, gathered and meticulously preserved over more than 40 years, includes pre-cinema curiosities from Europe, Asia and America dating as far back as the 17th century. Built around Balzer’s vast labor of love, this (sometimes literally) illuminating exhibition explores the evolution of today’s cinematic experience through a long tradition of optical amusements including peepshows, flip books, zoetropes, and kaleidoscopes, and featuring a magic lantern show created specifically for this exhibition. While quaint today, for generations before the advent of projected movies these were devices of transporting, almost magical wonder.

6. The Oscars® Experience

If you’re an avid Oscars watcher, you’ve surely wondered how it feels to be invited on stage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theater to accept one of those iconic gold statuettes as the adoring world watches. The Academy Museum’s immersive Oscars Experience simulation is about as close as most of us will ever get to that sensation, from hearing your name called (and of course feigning surprise), to giddily accepting the award. You’ll even receive a video of the event to befuddle your friends and family with for years to come!

Fannys Restaurant Dining Room 2022
Fannys Restaurant Dining Room, Courtesy of Instagram @fannysrestaurantandcafe
Fannys Restaurant Dining Room Booths 2022
Fannys Restaurant Dining Room Booths Courtesy Instagram @fannysrestaurantandcafe

7. Fanny’s Restaurant & Café

The Academy Museum is so filled with conversation points that you’ll likely need a break and chat during your visit. Fanny’s Restaurant & Café is the place to digest all you’ve seen and discuss faves and raves with companions. Developed by celebrated restaurateurs Bill Chait and Carl Schuster, the striking two-story space features both small-group and communal tables, an art deco-style bar, and an intimate lounge area with cozy curved booths.

Enjoy cuisine and cocktails by Chef Raphael Francois and Julian Cox, respectively, amid the work of local artists and artisans. A fitting and spectacular mural by L.A. artist Konstantin Kakanias wraps around the dining area, celebrating film and music legends from classical Hollywood to the present day.

8. Backdrop: An Invisible Art

The double-height Hurd Gallery is needed to spotlight both the artistry and the contested imagery of a monumental Mt. Rushmore backdrop used in Alfred Hitchcock’s canonical 1959 spy thriller “North by Northwest.” This neck-craning exhibit also serves as a through-provoking reminder of oft-overlooked role of such literally behind-the-scenes creations, and their creators, in the movies that have helped shape our world.

Image from image pair

9. Academy Museum Store

The Academy Museum Store is about as far as you’ll get from the stereotypical fridge-magnets-and-shot-glasses gift shop. Instead, this carefully curated one-off wonder features specially designed merchandise, Oscars memorabilia, and other exclusive film-related treasures: clothing, furniture, accessories, vinyl records, home and office items, posters, maps, illustrations, toys and games, plus an unparalleled selection of books and catalogues. Academy members including costume designer Ruth E. Carter, creative director I. Javier Ameijeiras, and the legendary Spike Lee have complimented their cinematic work by designing items available nowhere else, while the store’s many California-based partners include Amoeba Music, candlemaker Flores Lane, and lifestyle brand Poketo.

David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo by Iwan Baan/©Iwan Baan Studios, courtesy of Academy Museum Foundation

10. See a Movie!

There are 2 spectacular, state-of-the-art theaters that serve as presentation spaces for major film events, public programs, live performances, movie premieres, and other special events with the world’s leading filmmakers. The 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater is fully equipped to present film in many formats, including nitrate, 35mm, 70mm, and laser projection supporting Dolby Vision, which allows visitors to see the subtle details and ultra-vivid colors creating multi-dimensional visuals. The theater also features Dolby Atmos, a truly immersive audio experience. 
The Ted Mann Theater, located in the Saban Building, serves as the museum’s most utilized theater. The 288-seat theater offers curated screenings and special programs on a daily basis that include Oscar-winning films, family films, and rare and historical films, all presented in an intimate, elegant, art house setting.

 

For more information and tickets, visit the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures website.


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