Just when you thought it was a dead duck, it’s back and quacking.
For those who have had the dream of a world class movie museum coming to fruition in L.A., film capital of the world (count me in on that), last night’s announcement that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have begun the process of finally making that dream come true is good news all around. And that longtime dream museum, which was turning into more of a nightmare for the Academy, is going to be right down the street from the Acad’s own Beverly Hills headquarters (at least that’s the plan).
The Academy is saying the project housed in the historic old May Co. on Wilshire Blvd now known as LACMA West will take three to five years to complete. “We are on the fast track but it will be determined by fund raising,” said the Acad’s new CEO Dawn Hudson, who spoke with me today in a conference call with Academy President Tom Sherak and LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan. Hudson wasn’t throwing out official figures but says she expects it will cost less than half the rough estimate of $480 million that the Academy had targeted for their earlier foiled plan to erect this museum in Hollywood where they spent about $50 million so far buying land (which they now own outright) near their Pickford Center on Vine Street. But the idea to house the museum instead at the already existing 300,000-square-foot space on Wilshire actually goes back decades when it was even broached by former Academy Presidents Walter Mirisch and Bob Rehme. It heated up again about a year and a half ago with a casual conversation between another Govan and another former Academy President Sid Ganis, who then introduced the museum head to Sherak and then CEO Bruce Davis.
“For about an hour and a half I did something I rarely do. I just listened to someone talk who had a vision and a dream about what this could mean to the City of Los Angeles to bring different art forms, especially our two art forms together in one place,” said Sherak, who emphasized that the Board wanted a museum in their lifetime but that the Academy didn’t know how long it would take them to raise the money and build one themselves. Govan came to the rescue. “Being in the museum world, I see film programs at museums in Paris and Frankfurt. I wanted that in Los Angeles and I knew the Academy had a dream and they had a great resource. So the question was what could we offer to help and that was the beginning of the conversation,” said Govan.