The Academy Center for Motion Picture
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is the organization that (among other things) gives out the annual Academy Awards - otherwise known as the Oscars. Created in 1927, the Academy is dedicated to supporting research and education in film-making, and to honoring outstanding achievement in motion pictures. They now has over 3,400 active members (membership is by invitation only), and their two headquarter buildings are both located in Beverly Hills.
The Academy used to have only one main building, the one on Wilshire. But in 1991, the Academy moved part of their operations (and treasures) into a second building on La Cienega - the Academy Center for Motion Picture Study. The Center is housed in a wonderful old structure resembling a Spanish Mission, which they found in disrepair and restored to its former glory.
The original Wilshire
Boulevard office is also the place where the Oscar nominations are
announced each February, at a news conference which always draws international
media coverage. This is also the place where the stars pick up their actual
Oscar awards (after the statuettes
have been engraved).
The original Wilshire headquarters no longer has a giant Oscar statue outside (the gold figure now stands inside, near the elevator). There's usually not much for the general public to see or do in the building's lobby, which on most days is empty of exhibits (except for a few posters). And most of the building's six floors are now dedicated strictly to business.
However, on the 4th floor, you will find a small gallery which is open to the public, filled with exhibits related to the movie industry.
Unfortunately, they tend to be minor exhibits. On my first visit, the gallery featured a somewhat tiresome selection of stereoscopic viewers, magic lanterns, and other old-fashioned visual amusements from bygone eras.
To reach this modest exhibit hall, you must first walk through the barren lobby, sign-in with a guard at the front desk, then ride the elevator up to the 4th floor. That little exhibit really wasn't really worth the effort.
On a later sojourn, I found a slightly more ambitious exhibit, titled "Film Architecture: from Metropolis to Blade Runner," but it was mostly limited to photographs, blueprints, videos, and matte paintings of architectural designs used in motion pictures. The most intriguing piece was the original, large model of the building designed by Gary Cooper's architect (Howard Roark) in 1949's "The Fountainhead" (a nearby video monitor showed a clip from the movie featuring that very same model.)
Other recent exhibits have included a photo study of Hollywood screenwriters, and an exhibit of colorful movie posters from 50's horror movies like "Creature From the Black Lagoon" and "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman." (The exhibit was entitled "The Man Who Drew Bug-Eyed Monsters").
Early 1998 saw "Behind the Scenes at the Oscars," an exhibition of 55 photographs taken over the last four years at rehearsals and broadcasts of the Oscar shows, revealing intimate portraits of the stars in their unguarded moments. This exhibit was housed in the Grand Lobby Gallery. While late '98 found both the lobby and the 4th-floor gallery hosting an exhibit of orignal movie poster paintings by Batiste Madalena, featuring portraits of stars from the silent-screen era.
In 2002, they had an intriguing exhibit about the old Brown Derby restaurants.
[For a calendar of such events, go to http://www.oscars.org/events.]
But the public should
be interested in one other notable part of this Wilshire branch of the
Academy: they have a fabulous movie theatre! The
Samuel Goldwyn Theater seats close to
1,000, and is a gorgeous auditorium with state-of-the-art facilities; the
screen is flanked by twin, giant Oscar statues. This theater hosts frequent
screenings of exceptional films, and these screenings are open to the public.
In November of 1997, for instance, they had director John
Landis ("An American Werewolf
in London") in person, talking about the work of director George
Stevens, before the screening of Stevens'
"Alice Adams" (starring Katharine Hepburn). And they recently
showed a a newly restored digitally remastered print.of the 1965 classic
"Dr. Zhivago." In August, they screened both the
original "King Kong" and the original "Mighty
Joe Young." September of '98 saw a screening of the 1936 classic
"Show Boat" (commemorating the centennial birthday
of Paul Robeson).
Occasionally they even screen silent classics with live orchestration.
The Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture
A key attraction for some visitors will be the 1928 Mission-style building itself, with its tile roof and ornate, picturesque tower. This was formerly the old Beverly Hills Waterworks; take a look at the vintage photos in the lobby to see what the place used to look like when it was just a dilapidated water-treatment plant, and you'll have to admire the recent restoration effort. Situated in a small park, there's even a putting green and a soccer field on the south side of the building. (Since the lobby is named after Bob Hope, perhaps that explains the putting green...)
Inside, you again must check-in with a guard at the door (tell him you've come to see the library), then go upstairs. The large research library on the second floor contains an extraordinary collection of reference books concerning the history of motion pictures, but little else to attract members of the general public. Yes, there is some minor Hollywood memorabilia displayed under glass in the library's south wing, but that's all.
However, if you have serious research to do about motion pictures, this is the perfect spot. The Academy Film Archive is the finest and most complete film archives in the world. They have also attempted to collect every English language book on the subject of motion pictures. Included are more than 20,000 books, 60,000 screenplays, 12,000 films, 15,000 posters, 1,400 periodicals, 200,000 clippings, plus six million movie stills and photographs on file, all of which are available to researchers and students.
The Cecil B. DeMille Reading Room contains biographical files on more than 73,000 filmmakers and 82,000 movies, as well as tens of thousands of Hollywood books and production files. The library also has special collections donated by the estates of such legends as Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, John Huston, Mary Pickford,George Stevens, John Huston, George Cukor, George Roy Hill, Paul Mazursky, William Friedkin, Arthur Hiller, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Jackie Coogan, James Wong Howe, Sammy Cahn, Edith Head, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. The library does not lend its materials, though, all research must be done at the library.
In late 1996, Clark Gable's Oscar (which he won for his performance in the 1934 classic "It Happened One Night"), was auctioned off to the highest bidder , despite attempts by the Academy to prevent the sale. Fortunately, the highest bidder was Steven Spielberg, who paid $607,500 for the statuette, then graciously donated it to the Academy. It is now on permanent public display at the Center for Motion Picture Study on La Cienega.
Recently, the Academy acquired an historic property in Hollywood, at 1313 N. Vine Street. The former TV studio used to house KHJ-TV (now KCAL) and later KCBS-TV. Television shows such as "Barney Miller," "Queen for a Day," "The Joey Bishop Show," "The Dating Game," and "The Newlywed Game" were taped there. They plan to move the Academy Film Archive to this new spot , and to relocate their Academy's Player Directory here as well. In addition, the building will have a 300-seat screening room, and will help store some of the collections of the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library. The Library itself will remain at the Fairbanks Center in Beverly Hills. Both of the original two Academy buildings will remain open - the new space will simply give them some storage space and room for growth.
At the Wilshire offices,
there is a free underground parking garage beneath the building itself,
accessible from the west side. There is also free street parking on the
side streets (if you can find a space), and limited metered street parking
(from 10 AM-3 PM only) on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard,
east of the offices. / At the Center
for Motion Picture Study, there is
free parking (for two hours) in a parking garage north of the center (entrance
on La Cienega). There is also metered street parking on the west side of
the center (on Le Doux Road) at only 10 cents per hour.
The Wilshire offices:
Open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and
Fridays: 9 AM - 5 PM. The 4th floor exhibit gallery is open Tues-Fri 10
AM-5 PM, and on weekends from 12 noon to 6 PM. / The
Center for Motion Picture Study: Open
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays: 10 AM - 6 PM. (Closed Wednesdays
Getting there: Both Academy buildings are located in Beverly Hills.
The Academy's original offices are located on the north side of Wilshire Boulevard, between La Peer Drive (on the east) and Almont Drive (on the west). From Rodeo Drive, drive south to Wilshire, turn left (east) on Wilshire, and go about one mile east (just past Doheny). The office will be on your left (north) side.
The Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study is located at the northwest corner of La Cienega Boulevard and Olympic Boulevard, in La Cienega Park. From the Academy's Wilshire Boulevard offices, go east (about half a mile) to La Cienega, turn right (south) on La Cienega, and go south (a quarter mile) to Olympic Boulevard. From Rodeo Drive, drive south to Wilshire, turn left (east) on Wilshire, and go about east (about two and a half miles) to La Cienega. Turn right (south) on La Cienega, and go south (a quarter mile) to Olympic Boulevard.
[For more information on this subject, you can access the Academy's official website at: http://www.oscars.org.]
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