Should Hollywood studios help foot the bill for new movie museum?
It is long overdue good news to hear that the Motion Picture Academy has joined forces with the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art to move ahead with plans to establish a museum devoted to the history of movies. The museum will be housed next door to LACMA in the striking 1939-era May Co. building, which is something of an Art Deco landmark.
Of course, one big question remains: Who will pony up the money to help bankroll what will surely be a costly venture? After all, the academy's initial efforts to raise the $400 million needed for a movie museum were derailed by the late-2008 economic collapse.
I give the academy huge props for moving ahead with the project now, even though the economy is still far from stabilized. By locating the museum next door to LACMA, it will not only give the museum some extra gravitas, but it will also make it easier to generate tourist traffic by allowing visitors to get a two-for-one deal by stopping by the museum after they've finished touring LACMA.
Still, raising money won't be easy. In the past, the studios have been woefully, almost obscenely derelict in preserving their own past, happily knocking down all sorts of historic back-lot treasure troves whenever they wanted new office space or needed to sell land to keep their businesses afloat. Luckily, the academy has an ace up its sleeve. Tom Sherak, who recently started his third term as academy president, has moonlighted as a master fundraiser for the last 18 years, having raised $43 million over that time for his annual MS Dinner of Champions.
MS Dinner honorees have included such showbiz notables as Peter Chernin, Howard Stringer, Harvey Weinstein and Joe Roth. It isn't easy raising money for charity in L.A., where especially during the fall it feels as if there's a different high-profile dinner every week. But Sherak has a knack for getting people to give, something that will come in handy with the academy's efforts to establish a museum.
I expect to see Sherak making the rounds of the various film studios in the months to come. In fact, I can almost hear his pitch already: This is your history. This is your art form. This is what made Warners, Fox, Disney, Paramount, Universal and Sony the brands they are today. It's time to show some respect for the people who put the movies on the map by showing us the money.
If anyone is looking for an apt model for a movie museum, all they need to do is take a trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. I spent a few days there this summer when my kid was in Cooperstown, playing in a baseball tournament. It was a revelation. The museum is crammed with incredible memorabilia and fascinating historical exhibits, which draw an average of 350,000 people a year.
If the Hall of Fame is a mecca for baseball fans, a Hollywood movie museum could be a must-see attaction for filmgoers, especially since there are so few places today where fans can go to view a serious overview of movie history. My advice to the tycoons who run today's film studios is simple: It's time to open your wallets and pay it forward. The movie industry still has a bright future, but if it wants to enjoy some good karma, it's time to step up and make a generous investment in its past.
-- Patrick Goldstein
Academy President Tom Sherak is flanked by 2011 Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen, left, and Don Mischer at the 83rd annual Oscar nominees luncheon in Beverly Hills. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times