These little statuettes, and the annual battles to win one, are what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is best known for. But the academy has many other functions in the motion picture industry -- and in five years, "museum owner" should be among them, much to the delight of movie fans, thanks to something that will be called the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
For decades, film buffs have long desired to have some sort of comprehensive museum in Los Angeles dedicated to the motion picture industry, sort of along the lines of what baseball has in Cooperstown, N.Y., or basketball in Springfield, Mass. -- in other words, a place with loads of artifacts and exhibits.
There have been several efforts before. In the early sixties, there were plans to build the "Hollywood Museum" on a Los Angeles County-owned site opposite the main entrance to the Hollywood Bowl, and a groundbreaking ceremony was actually held in October 1963. However, problems over financing led the county to withdraw its support by 1965, and the site was eventually converted into parking.
The eternally vivacious Debbie Reynolds has accumulated a huge array of filmland memorabilia, much of it understandably related to musicals. However, the collection also has items dating back to silent days. After years of vainly trying to find a Hollywood site for it, she finally brought it to public display in 1995 in Las Vegas at the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino. However, two years later, she was forced to declare bankruptcy, and the hotel eventually closed. The good news is that her collection will again be visible to the public at a museum -- but at Belle Island Village in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., as part of an entertainment complex set to open next fall. Find out more at http://www.hmpc.tv/home.html
The academy has plenty of experience in collecting film items. Its Margaret Herrick Library has arguably the best accumulation of motion picture research materials anywhere in the world, and is invaluable for anyone doing projects relating to film history. Its Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, located adjacent to the planned museum, hosts several of its departments in addition to a theater, a film archive and the academy's Science and Technology Council.
However, a museum should have far more of an impact on the general public than a library or study center. Given the popularity of museum attendance, it likely would be a moneymaker, too. It would be located close to the heart of Hollywood, just a few blocks down from Hollywood Boulevard and the Hollywood and Vine Metrorail station.
What will the museum look like? That's not known yet. What is known is the architect, announced this week: Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, a renonwned French firm that has a number of praised buildings in Paris, Berlin and New York on its resume.
As for fundraising, it will begin next year. Groundbreaking is planned for 2009, with an opening tentatively set for 2012. With luck, some Carole Lombard artifacts will be on hand. If you'd like to learn more about the project, visit its Web site at http://www.moviemuseum.org.
In the meantime, another fine media museum can be found in New York, specifically on the Astoria, Queens, site where Lombard filmed "Fast And Loose" in 1930. It's called the American Museum of the Moving Image, and it has a nice array of exhibits, screenings and other programs. Find out more about it at http://www.movingimage.us/site/site.php