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Academy Museum Finds Home at LACMA (Exclusive, Updated)

Board of Governors has passed a proposal to locate long-delayed AMPAS museum in old May Co. building at LACMA (Updated)

Updated at 9:15 PST:

The Academy has confirmed an agreement with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to locate a new motion picture museum in a former department store owned by LACMA.

LACMA WestThe AMPAS Board of Governors voted to approve the plan at its meeting on Tuesday night. The vote, and the proposal to locate the museum in the old May Company department store building at LACMA (left), was first reported by TheWrap.

The Academy release did not include details about the museum, or the "new and unique cultural center" that will result in the alliance between AMPAS and LACMA. It simply said that the two institutions had agreed to sign "a memorandum of understanding to work in good faith in establishing the Academy's movie museum in the historic May Company building."

The memorandum, it said, would pave the way for a contract between the Academy and the museum to develop fundraising, design and renovation plans.

"It is appropriate and long overdue for the city that is home to the motion picture industry to recognize this art form with a museum of its own," said LACMA's Board of Trustees co-chair (and longtime Warner Bros. executive) Terry Semel in the press release announcing the alliance. "The LACMA Board is delighted to be facilitating this important cultural event, which has special resonance for me, having spent most of my life dedicated to the great art of movies."

Added AMPAS president Tom Sherak, "The new museum will be a world-class destination that is a tangible representation of the Academy’s mission. And the idea of our museum being part of a larger cultural center for the arts, in this city that we love, was incredibly compelling to the Academy Board."



The Academy's long in the works motion picture museum, which has stalled because of the bad economy, may have found a new home. It's not the Vine Street property that the Academy purchased for it, but a 70-year-old former department store owned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

According to a source with knowledge of the agenda, Tuesday night's meeting of the Academy's board of governors will include a vote on a proposal to locate the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in the former May Company building at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles.

The building, a Southern California landmark built in 1939, sits adjacent to LACMA. The museum acquired it in 1994, renamed it LACMA West, and has used it for sporadic exhibits since then.

Academy officials have been talking about building a motion picture museum for decades, but the talk heated up in the 1990s. The Academy spent close to $50 million since 2005, buying a 3.5-acre plot of land adjacent to its Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Vine Street in Hollywood. It also conducted a two-year search for an architect that ended with the selection of the French firm Atelier Christian de Portzamparc.

But the economic downturn of 2008 essentially killed AMPAS's fundraising prospects for what was to have been a potential $400 million project. The land has sat unused and abandoned since then (photo below), although Academy president Tom Sherak told TheWrap earlier in the year that current Academy officials "believe that we should try to see this come to fruition while we're still around."

Academy museum siteDawn Hudson, who assumed the newly-created position of Academy CEO in June, had ties with LACMA from her previous job as executive director of Film Independent.

That non-profit organization, which stages the Film Independent Spirit Awards, took over LACMA's financially-ailing film series last month. The deal was made and announced in April, when Hudson was still on board at FIND.

In one of her last moves at that organization, she hired film critic and radio host Elvis Mitchell to curate the film series.

Since then, according to the source with knowledge of the situation, Hudson has remained in contact with LACMA CEO Michael Govan. Negotiations to locate the Academy museum at LACMA heated up over the past month, and were presented to the board on Tuesday.