“I always thought it was crazy that the city of Los Angeles didn’t have a preeminent motion picture museum,” producer Kathleen Kennedy said in a recent interview. Kennedy is Vice President of the Board of Governors and Chair of the Academy committee overseeing the creation of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, now under construction adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The museum's mission: to explore and celebrate the history and future of the moving image and moviemaking.
The remarkable new facility, designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, makes use of the famed art deco shell of the former May Company department store at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, but then soars up behind it with a new spherical state-of-the-art theater and vast glass-domed terrace with a panoramic view of the Hollywood hills. “The scale is the first thing I felt when I walked onto the site,” Kennedy said. “Wow, this is going to really be a significant destination for the city of Los Angeles.”
From her very first film, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Kennedy has produced an unparalleled series of extraordinary movies: Schindler’s List, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Color Purple, The Sixth Sense, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and the just released Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Not surprisingly, Kennedy views the project, which is the largest in Academy history, in the manner of a major motion picture production.
“You might say we’re in the final script phase right now,” she said. “Prior to that we were in the treatment phase, and prior to that we were in the pitching phase.” With the building underway, the museum is turning its attention from structure to content.
That’s the exciting part for Kennedy. Like a film script coming to life on a set, the construction of the Academy Museum has progressed to the point that concepts — whether on paper, computer screens or in models — are becoming reality.
“We can start to see beyond the concept art, how these spaces are beginning to lead us through a kind of narrative.” It will not come just from static displays, but also interactive elements appropriate to a museum devoted to the moving picture. “You can have experiences in this environment that give you a sense of what it feels like when a film actually takes shape and begins to sweep you away, the way that only cinema can.”
But as a producer, Kennedy is not so consumed with the wonder of the project that she can’t see the practicalities of the venture long past opening day.
“Once you make and release a movie, you’re essentially finished,” she said. “With a museum, in a certain way, you’ve just begun because you move into the very important process of community relations and of finding ways in which you operate the museum appropriately. You keep exhibitions changing and moving so that the environment is as interesting as possible.”
“When people come to visit this museum, they’ll want to come back again and again because it’s an experience that they’ll want to have multiple times.”