This month marks a major milestone for movie buffs: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens September 30, and tickets are on sale now. After nearly a decade of construction, the Los Angeles museum is slated to be "the largest institution in the United States devoted to exploring the art and science of movies and moviemaking," according to the Academy.
The Academy Museum anchors the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue along Museum Row, near the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Two connected buildings contain 50,000 square feet of gallery exhibition space, two state-of-the-art theaters, an education studio, the Academy Store, Fanny's Cafe and Restaurant, and a rooftop terrace beneath a glass-and-concrete dome.
A 25-foot-long fiberglass shark named Bruce, made from the original mold used in the 1975 blockbuster Jaws, greets film fans as they glide up the escalator. The inaugural Stories of Cinema exhibition includes artifacts such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (1939) and the Mount Rushmore backdrop from North by Northwest (1959). Museum guests can get a close look at famous movie costumes like The Dude's bathrobe from The Big Lebowski (1998), the Penguin's face mask from Batman Returns (1992), and a spacesuit from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Exhibits are housed in the newly christened Saban Building, a streamlined 1939 structure that once housed the May Company department store. The adjacent glass dome—nicknamed "the Sphere"—holds the David Geffen Theater with 1,000 seats and a stage large enough to accommodate a 60-piece orchestra. The Sphere also contains the more intimate, 288-seat Ted Mann Theatre.
Plan on spending the better part of a day to wind your way through the exhibits, attend a panel discussion on filmmaking or film history, and watch a movie in one of the state-of-the-art theaters. Scheduled film series include family-oriented Saturday matinees and "Oscar Sundays," an evening series showcasing films that have been honored at the Academy Awards.
Serious cinephiles can seek out the annotated script Gregory Peck used while filming To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), or the miniature Oscar statuette given to six-year-old Shirley Temple at the 1934 Academy Awards. The museum's upper floors hold rotating exhibitions, starting with a retrospective on the Japanese animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, featuring image boards, characters, and posters from the artist's archives. Animation fans will also enjoy the Pixar Toy Story 3D Zoetrope, a spinning turntable that illustrates the key principles of animation using sculpted models of Woody, Buzz, and other Toy Story characters.
If you've ever fantasized about walking the red carpet and accepting an Oscar award, you can live that dream in "The Oscars Experience" immersive simulation. You'll hear your name called and walk to the Dolby Theater stage, then breathlessly try to remember your acceptance speech and all the people you should thank.
The museum's exterior is as dazzling as the exhibits inside. Award-winning architect Renzo Piano spent the last decade redesigning and renovating the landmark Saban Building, its attention-grabbing facade highlighted by an enormous half-cylinder covered in 350,000 Italian gold-leaf tiles. Connected to the Saban by elevated glass bridges, the futuristic dome holding the theaters is crowned by a fifth-floor rooftop terrace offering expansive views of the Hollywood Hills.
Museum tickets are available only through advance online reservations via the Academy Museum’s website or its app. Admission is $25 for adults, $19 for seniors (age 62-plus), and $15 for college students. Museum members and children ages 17 and younger get in free. The museum’s public spaces—the Grand Lobby, the Walt Disney Piazza, the Academy Museum Store, and Fanny's Restaurant and Cafe—are open to guests without tickets. Museum hours are Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.