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Rita Wilson & Kerry Brougher Preview the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

By Scott Huver | September 13, 2019 | Movies

As the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures preps to open its doors in 2020, founding director Kerry Brougher and Rita Wilson promise a blockbuster.

Inside the David Geffen Theater.

As far back as its founding in 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences championed the idea of a museum to celebrate the cinematic form. Next year, that long-percolating vision becomes a reality when the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures—formerly the historic May Company Building, magnificently reimagined by architect Renzo Piano—opens its doors. In an exclusive interview, the museum’s founding director, Kerry Brougher, and actress and Academy member Rita Wilson, who alongside her husband, Tom Hanks, has worked closely on the project, offer a sneak preview of the movies’ ultimate show palace.

Kerry Brougher: “Los Angeles is a city that should have had a film museum decades ago, and it never quite happened here. And maybe that’s for the best, because with the technologies that are available now and the great projection systems, we can actually create exhibitions that are immersive and exciting, and bring together these amazing artifacts from the Academy Library and the museum’s collection into an environment where we also can show the moving image—the real art form itself.”

Rita Wilson: “I grew up in Hollywood, going to the La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA, and shopping for school clothes at the May Company! I may get a little turned around, like, ‘Wait a minute, where are the Oxfords that I need to buy?’ [laughs] Film is one of our greatest artistic exports in the world. People now will have a place to come and celebrate, and it doesn’t have to just be a bus going down the street looking at where some movie star lives! It’s going to be a place that celebrates where art actually was made, and they’re going to show you how.”

KB: “While we call it a museum, we’re hoping it will really be a kind of film hub, a center for everyone to gravitate toward, so they see a movie the way it was meant to be shown—in 35 mm or 70 mm or even nitrate—and see projects that will be about the cinema of the future. It’s really a gathering place for people who, in one way or another, love the movies.”

RW: “I adore that we have two theaters. There’s the David Geffen Theater, which is that gorgeous spherical dome building. Through the glass part of it, you can see the Hollywood sign—like, ‘Yes, I am in Hollywood!’—but it’s also a spectacular state-of-the-art place. The smaller, 288-seat Ted Mann Theater is going to be great for live performances or lectures from notable artists.”

KB: “There are so many great objects that we’re going to have: a close-up pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the doors from Casablanca; Steven Spielberg is lending Rosebud [the sled from Citizen Kane]; the only existing model from 2001: A Space Odyssey—Rita and Tom helped us acquire that! The power of those artifacts is if you actually show people the object, all of a sudden, their eyes light up. They have an aura about them. It’s very important to care for these things for posterity and to maintain the history of films for future generations.”

RW: “The museum is staking its claim and saying, ‘No, we are definitely art. We’re not just pop culture—we are art!’”

KB: “It’s the art form that brings all the other art forms together. We love it so much because it’s really [all of] us: We see ourselves in film, in cinema.”