Movie academy goes casual with plan for outdoor summer screenings
Grab your blankets and beach chairs, Oscar is going casual.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Monday the slate of movies for its first outdoor screening series to be held at its new Oscars Outdoors venue on Vine Street. The lineup, which kicks off June 15 with a screening of "Casablanca," is a mixture of classics and contemporary films designed to appeal to a broad swath of the moviegoing public.
Screenings will take place Friday and Saturday evenings through Aug. 18, with Saturday evenings devoted to family-friendly fare, such as Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride" and Disney's animated classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
The organization behind the Oscars purchased the 3.5-acre lot near the intersection of Vine and Fountain Avenue in 2005 for $50 million, with the intention of building a world-class movie museum on the lot. In October, however, the academy announced a partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the project, and the movie museum is now set to be housed in the former May Co. department store on Wilshire Boulevard at Fairfax Avenue.
Rather then sell off the land in Hollywood, which sits next to the academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, the academy opted to open the outdoor theater.
The academy spent $2 million renovating the land, which now includes a graded lawn area that seats about 350 patrons on blankets and low-rise lawn chairs, and a 10,000-square-foot plaza available for receptions.
With the series, the academy is hoping to serve the Hollywood community that was initially promised a museum on the site, academy President Tom Sherak said.
"It was not an easy decision to not build a building here," said Sherak, who presented the amphitheater's programming in a midmorning news conference alongside City Councilman Eric Garcetti. "We are not going to abandon this community."
During the event, Sherak asked Garcetti whether he would authorize the closure of Homewood Avenue, which directly faces the screen, when films are showing to allow those without tickets to sit outside the amphitheater and watch the movies. Garcetti responded, "I'd be happy to look at it."
The academy also announced a slate of summer and fall public programs at its other theaters and plans to ramp up its preservation program. The $2-million initiative, titled Film-to-Film, began in 2011 and has preserved or acquired about 300 titles, including such feature films as "Sleuth" and "The Cardinal," in addition to silent films and Oscar-nominated shorts. (The academy film archive had already preserved 1,000 titles since it began its work in 1992.)
"We must preserve as much of our film heritage on film as soon as we can," said Randy Haberkamp, the academy's managing director for programming, education and preservation, during the conference.
The academy tested out the amphitheater Saturday night with a staff screening of John Hughes' comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and an invitation-only screening of "Field of Dreams" is set for May 19. Sherak and past academy presidents Sid Ganis and Robert Rehme intend to serve popcorn.
The evening is sure to be nostalgic for Sherak, a former exhibition executive, who views the outdoor theater as the closest he could come to creating a drive-in theater for Hollywood. "We wanted to take the present and add in a piece of the past.... Come, bring your blankets and beach chairs. Come and get away from the rigors of life."
Screenings are $5 for the public, with children 10 and younger admitted free. Tickets go on sale on the academy's website on June 1.
— Nicole Sperling
Photo: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak at the academy's news conference unveiling Oscars Outdoors. Credit: Valerie Macon/Getty Images.