Thoughts on the LACMA-Academy Movie Museum Deal

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and LACMA have come to a tentative deal to establish AMPAS’s long-planned motion picture museum in the May Company Building (up until now, “LACMA West”).

• The city needs a movie museum. Tourists looking for—who knows what?—on Hollywood Boulevard need someplace to go.

• What LACMA must be thinking: The AMPAS museum will be like a permanent Tim Burton show, funneling tourists to the museum’s doorstep. Some will go next door and see the art.

• What some in the art world must be thinking: LACMA diminishes itself by bringing a non-art tourist attraction onto its campus.

• How well the deal will work will depend on the programming of AMPAS museum. The Museum of Modern Art has always recognized film as a modern art form to be displayed among other forms of modernism. Unfortunately, MoMA won’t be programming the new museum. The fear/likelihood is that an AMPAS museum will be like the corporate-funded Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. It will be dependent on funds from industry players and will feel pressure to tout familiar studio hits.

• AMPAS will be leasing the whole 300,000 May Company building, putting all other plans and pipe dreams for the site on hold.

Ravaged former site of the AMPAS museum (Chris Godley photo)

• It might not happen. Starting in 2005, AMPAS assembled a big site in Hollywood for its movie museum and hired starchitect Christian de Portzamparc to build it. It bought at the top of the market and soon become a subprime property owner, complete with neighbors complaining about the weedy front yard. (That fiasco is not mentioned in the AMPAS-LACMA press release.) The Academy still has to raise the money for the Miracle Mile museum—a lot of money in a lagging economy.

• Should the AMPAS museum come to pass, L.A.’s “Museum Row” will have art, tar pits, cars, and movies. Dude, where’s the surfboard museum?