Academy to Host Summer Screening Series at New Open-Air Theater (Updated)

The Academy will screen titles such as "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Back to the Future" and "Shane"; expanded film-preservation initiative also announced

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Casablanca” and “North by Northwest” are just a few of titles the Academy will show as part of “Oscars Outdoors,” a new summer screening series set at its new open-air theater in Hollywood.

Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, announced the screening series at the site of the theater, which opens May 19 with an invitation-only showing of "Field of Dreams." Sherak also announced a slate of public programs at its two other theaters in Los Angeles, and the expansion of the Academy's film-preservation efforts.

"We are deepening our ties to Hollywood," said Sherak when he announced the new programs on Monday at the site. "This is just the beginning."

Last week, the Academy signed a contract to keep the Oscars at what is now the Dolby Theater, formerly the Kodak, in Hollywood.

AMPAS bought the 3.5-acre plot, located just north of its Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, for more than $50 million in 2006. After the recession scuttled fundraising efforts for an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – now to be located at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art – the Academy decided to use the land for other purposes, including storage and the open-air theater.

Demolition, construction and landscaping began in July 2011; to date, Sherak said, the work has cost more than $2 million. The site now features a massive lawn, a permanent 40-foot by 20-foot screen, and an adjacent 10,000-square foot plaza. Food trucks will frequent the location during each screening — though Sherak also promised that at the first screening, he and past AMPAS presidents Sid Ganis and Bob Rehme will serve popcorn.

The venue will also host special screenings, education programs and other functions.

One building on the site, a former Big Lots discount store, is now used to store large Oscar statues and other elements used in Academy Awards shows. AMPAS has plans to use an adjoining yoga studio, but has yet to announce what the building's function will be.

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The summer series kicks off with Michael Curtiz’ “Casblanca” June 15 and the original “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” June 16. Films will screen every Friday and Saturday through mid-August, mixing black and white classics with newer movies, such as “Dreamgirls” and “Raising Arizona.” 

Tickets cost $5 for the public, $3 for Academy members and students and are free to children 10 years and younger. "This is not a moneymaker," said Sherak. "There won't be anything left after we finish cleaning it every night."

Sherak said that the use of the Vine St. property for an outdoor theater was one that came hard to Academy staffers who'd long envisioned using the area for a newly-constructed museum.

"It was not easy for anyone at the Academy to not want to build a building here," he said. "But we wanted a museum in our time, and we couldn't raise the money to do it here."

A brand new museum constructed on the property could have cost as much as $400 million; relocating the museum to an existing building at LACMA cuts those costs dramatically.

The Oscars Outdoors theater, Sherak added, is proof "that we have not abandoned this property. And we will be doing more here."

The Monday announcement was the first time the Academy has had a major press conference to announce its entire slate of upcoming public screenings. In addition to the Oscars Outdoors program, the organization announced a number of special events at its Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood and its flagship Samuel Goldwyn Theater in its Beverly Hills headquarters.

Those events will include a gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films, and another evening devoted to the music from that series.

The Academy is also hosting a series that it has billed as "The Last 70mm Film Festival," with Goldwyn screenings of new 70mm prints of "Spartacus," "The Sound of Music," "2001: A Space Odyssey" and others.

That series dovetails with a dramatic expansion of its film preservation initative, "Film to Film." The $2 million restoration project will focus, said AMPAS managing director of programming, education and preservation Randy Haberkamp, "on protecting film elements on film."

While the Academy's Scientific and Technical Council studies digital preservation, said Haberkamp, "to preserve films on a format that may not be readable in five years is a problem."

Since 1992, the Academy has helped save 1,000 titles from possibly being lost, with about 300 films saved just in the last few months of the Film to Film project.

"Film-to-Film represents an extraordinary commitment to preserving our film heritage on film, but it’s also a part of our digital future," Academy Film Archive director Mike Pogorzelski said in a statement. "Once the industry has resolved the challenges still posed by digital preservation, including the lack of standard file formats and continuous technology migration, we will be able to scan these films without relying on brittle, fragile, or deteriorated elements."