After creating the Oscars in 1929, the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved on to the next item on their agenda: the construction of a purpose-built museum dedicated to movies in their home town of Los Angeles. It seemed like a natural next step. While the Academy Awards honour achievements in filmmaking each year, a permanent museum would preserve and pay tribute to those throughout history.
Still, any jaded screenwriter in Hollywood will tell you that a good idea alone isn’t enough to get a project off the ground. After decades of infighting, delays and false starts, the Academy announced in 2012 that a suitable site had been found and the museum would be open by 2017. But that date came and went, with reports of further delays and spiralling costs appearing beneath increasingly concerned headlines, such as the one from Vanity Fair in 2019, which forlornly asked: “Will the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures ever actually open?”
It took a couple more years, not helped by the outbreak of a pandemic, but now, yes, the Academy Museum will finally open its doors this week. After almost a century of prologue, the pressure is on to deliver an experience that lives up to its own billing. “There are other cities with film museums,” observed Tom Hanks, who helped spearhead fundraising for the project, in a speech to the assembled world press at a preview event last week. “But with all due respect, in a place like Los Angeles, and created by the Motion Picture Academy, this museum has really got to be the Parthenon of such places.”