Every city boasts both historical landmarks that draw tourists and secret hideaways that attract locals, but like every rule, there is an exception: museums. Whether showcasing emotion-inducing works of art by instantly recognizable names or documenting the profound impact of a major world event, museums are the one institution that hosts what feels like a 50-50 split between the world’s most coveted metropolises’ visitors and residents. And America’s most highly anticipated museum opening, the stylishly industrial Renzo Piano–designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is slated to swing open its doors on the last day of September. As is expected, the museum is smack-dab in the middle of La La Land, on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. And if the star-studded opening soirée is any indication, the museum will certainly become the hottest spot in town.
In addition to offering much more than a just glimpse of cinema’s most recognizable objects and memorabilia—Dorothy Gale’s red-sequin pumps, Academy Awards, and even Danai Gurira’s red-and-gold armor, to name a few—the museum will also play host to a series of talks from local luminaries like Laura Dern, film screenings, and symphonic experiences.
Five things to know before paying the Academy Museum a visit
It’s all about visitor awareness: The team at the Academy Museum is placing as much emphasis on curating beautiful things throughout the new spot’s galleries as they are on visitors being able to ogle at Jeff Bridges’ tattered robe that he wore in The Big Lebowski, or Jaws’ Bruce, the 25-foot-long, 1,208-pound fiberglass shark who hangs suspended between two floors, mouth wide open.
In total, the museum cost $484 million: To put that in perspective: When Washington D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery closed in 2000 for what was supposed to be a two-year, $42 million renovation, it ended up taking seven years and cost nearly $300 million. Though the new L.A. museum has been delayed for decades, the cost of construction and procuring each instantly recognizable artifact isn’t exactly unheard of.
There’s a full-fledged restaurant: The café is dubbed Fanny’s after Fanny Brice, a renaissance woman in every sense of the word: She was an American comedian, illustrated song model, singer, and actress. Unlike some other institutions’ eateries, which can look more like a food court than a dining concept, Fanny’s is a two-story, 10,000-square-foot European-style café helmed by restauranteurs Bill Chait and Carl Schuster. As for the interiors, the museum enlisted local firm Commune Design, who infused the space with undeniable Old Hollywood glamour.
Literature is key: Some museums have placards beside a work of art to denote what visitors are looking at, who created it, and when. At the Academy Museum, there are plenty of pieces that require no explanation whatsoever. For instance, there’s a whole area specifically dedicated to the concept of casting, which features a collection of handwritten notes from prominent directors regarding who should play what roles in some of the world’s most beloved films. One such note is from Marion Dougherty—who cast Anna Karenina and Batman Returns, among many more—that reads, “[Diane Keaton] just a darling auburn-haired girl.”
It’s an educational experience: As its name implies, there’s an actual academy with 9,300 members connected to the museum. Membership encompasses everything from free general admission and unlimited guests for an entire year to members-only advanced film screenings. Of course, early access and priority admission are on offer as well. Some of the most educational moments come in the form of immersive experiences, like that of the Miyazaki exhibit, which puts visitors inside the creative storyboard of the Japanese illustrator. How do you get there? Through a colorful—almost magical—well-lit tree tunnel, of course.