Hollywood’s New Movie Museum Is Ready for Its Close-Up
(Bloomberg) -- In one of the first galleries you enter at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, there’s a large screen showing clips from “Citizen Kane.”
Walk behind it, and there almost glowing in a spotlight is one of the film’s most-famous props, the red sled, named Rosebud, one of three balsa wood models made for the picture. The other two were tossed in the furnace during the shooting of the critical last scene of the 1941 Orson Welles classic.
Hollywood always seems to do a particularly good job of portraying itself, and the new museum lives up to that standard. The space, which opens to the public on Sept. 30, aims to please die-hard cinephiles, as well as casual fans, with a stellar collection of props and exhibits celebrating moviemaking in the industry’s capital.
Inside you’ll find Dorothy’s ruby slippers, believed to be the ones Judy Garland wore when she clicked her heels in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” and a remote-controlled R2-D2 used throughout the “Star Wars” saga. There’s also a bathrobe Jeff Bridges wore in 1998’s “The Big Lebowski,” one of six that costume designer Mary Zophres bought at clothing discounter Marshalls.
Indeed, the museum makes a great effort to highlight the work of many behind-the-scenes professions that are still so essential to moviemaking. You can see so-called Foley artists re-creating the sound of Harrison Ford running in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” by stomping on the floor of a studio.
The exhibit on costume design shows the life masks of stars Grace Kelly and Clark Gable, used for positioning wigs and facial hair, as well the prosthetic teeth Charlize Theron wore in 2003’s “Monster.”
And who but the most-serious cinema fans would know that Gale Sondergaard was originally cast to play the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz,” but she dropped out when the part shifted from a glamorous witch to an ugly one. Not good for her career, she reasoned.
“The hope is that if we provide all of those layers, people can take as much of a deep dive as they want,” said Dara Jaffe, an assistant curator, who worked on that gallery.
The museum will feature a rotating collection of exhibits. One devoted to director Spike Lee, for example, shows his many sources of inspiration, from a John Coltrane album cover to one of Prince’s guitars. There’s also the purple and yellow Kobe Bryant-themed tuxedo he wore to last year’s Oscars.
The museum, housed in a remodeled May Company department store, was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the Broad and Resnick wings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next door. Its location, in the heart of the city’s museum row, should make it a popular stop for tourists and locals. Among its most striking features is an orb behind the original building that serves as a 1,000-seat theater for screenings.
It was a long time coming. The museum’s sponsor, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, home of the Oscars, has been looking to create such a museum almost since its founding in 1927. The ultimate result, like many a Hollywood blockbuster, ran late and over budget, with a final cost of $482 million. Bloomberg Philanthropies provided funding for the development of some of the museum’s digital experiences.
Adult admission is $25. Children 17 and under are free.
There’s also a special experience that comes for an extra $15 fee. Guests can walk past billowing red curtains to find themselves on a faux stage, with spotlights in their eyes, the projection of a clapping audience in front of them, as they deliver their own version of an Oscar acceptance speech. Video copies are available later as souvenirs, just don’t go on too long.
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