The Academy Museum
Feature by Willard Manus

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is nirvana for film buffs.

Its five spacious floors offer glimpses into just about every aspect of film-making: direction, animation, stop-motion, special effects, editing, sound, costumes, cinematography, screen-writing, and more, much more. In addition to those permanent exhibitions, the museum also presents feature films in its two state-of-the-art theatres. There’s a “Limited Film Series”(recent offerings included a Hayao Miyazaki retrospective) and an “Ongoing Film Series” (a monthly showcasing of experimental and indie films).

One can also watch special showings of films selected by the 17 Academy branches; Family Matinees (kids of all ages welcome); and Oscar Sundays (Oscar winners and nominees on the big screen, every Sunday at 7.30 pm).


The history of cinematic art (and industry) is a long, colorful and complex one–-and the Academy Museum holds nothing back in its exploration of it. In the animation exhibit, for example, close attention is paid to the pioneers of this unique art form: the Hubleys, Bob Clampett, Leon Schlesinger and Frank Thomas (to name a few). Samples of their drawings, notes and scripts are on display, with excerpts from their finished work springing to life on a variety of screens.

Those interested in costumes and makeup can confront life-sized characters from such iconic movies as E.T., The Amphibian Man, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. This unique exhibit has become one of the museum’s most popular attractions.

Equally unique is the “Stories of Cinema” exhibit on the third floor. On the day of our family visit, key scenes from the films of the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar were being shown, along with artifacts from his storied career: posters, reviews and stills (many of which feature a youthful and glowing Jennifer Lopez).

My teenaged grandson (visiting from Scotland) was particularly drawn to the exhibition displaying the early versions of movie-making: the shadow plays, nickelodeons and magic lanterns that caught the public’s eye a century ago. As Michael said, “It really shows you how films were invented in the olden days.”

One can easily spend an entire day in the museum, going from floor to floor, exhibit to exhibit–-and reveling in the glories of cinematic history.

The Academy Museum deserves an Oscar of its own.

(6067 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.,CA. 90036, open 7 days week. Visit