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Academy Museum / Geffen Theatre

6067 Wilshire Blvd.  Los Angeles, CA 90036  | map |

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum of Motion Pictures is scheduled to open in the former May Co. department store building in 2019. Photo: Bill Counter - October 2018

The complex is to include the spherical 1,000 seat Geffen Theatre behind the original building, now called the Saban Building. David Geffen donated $25 million to the project, Haim Saban and his wife reportedly donated $50 million. The location is the northeast corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, just west of LACMA. The May Co. Building and the surrounding property the Museum is using are owned by Los Angeles County.

The Academy has described their project: "The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures—located in the historic May Company building in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles—will be the world’s premier institution devoted to exploring the art and science of movies and moviemaking. Designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum will consist of a major renovation to the 1930s Streamline Moderne May Company building plus a soaring spherical addition that will house a 1,000-seat theater"


Original building opening: 1939    Projected Museum opening: 2019

Architects: The original building was a design of Albert C. Martin & Samuel A. Marx. The architects for the museum are Renzo Piano and Gensler. The budget as of mid-2017 was reported to be $388 million. The May Co. building, owned by LACMA, is on 110 year lease to the Academy for a cost of $36 million.

The Geffen Theatre: 

A rendering of the museum's theatre that appeared on the Academy Museum website. They commented on the theatre: "The 1,000-seat theater located in the spherical building will not only be an unforgettable part of each visitor’s experience, but will also become a hub for major film events including premieres, openings and special presentations with the world’s leading filmmakers."  

Seating: 1,000

Screen width: Approximately 60'

Projection capability: 35, 70, digital. The booth is being designed to handle nitrate prints.

Another rendering of the Geffen Theatre from AMPAS / Renzo Piano. The screen will be positioned on the side of the sphere closest to the main building.

A rendering of the theatre from AMPAS / Reno Piano that appeared with "Film Academy releases new renderings...," a September 2017 Curbed L.A. article by Jenna Chandler.

The Ted Mann Theatre:

This 288 seat house will be located on the basement level of the Saban/May Co. building. The rendering is one on display at the site during construction.  Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019

The Academy has noted that this smaller house  "...will be the museum’s 'cinematheque,' offering screenings ranging from Saturday morning matinees for children of all ages to global cinema series...Both theaters [this house and the Geffen] will be home to an array of live performances, lectures, panels, and other events that will bring the most notable artists working in film to Los Angeles. Both theaters will be equipped to present film with multidimensional sound experiences and superior screen quality."  

Interior views:

Looking in from the entrance on Wilshire. This will be the ticketing area with a restaurant area off to the left and a store and exhibit areas to the right. Both the restaurant and store will be accessible without buying a ticket. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019

The Academy's website has noted: "Visitors to the museum will experience the magic of cinema and the creative, collaborative process of filmmaking. The Academy Museum will feature six stories of dynamic spaces, including more than 50,000 square feet of immersive exhibition galleries, a state-of-the-art education studio, two film and performance theaters, a restaurant and cafĂ©, and dynamic public and special event spaces."  

The east side of the main floor with the future retail area on the far right, exhibit areas beyond. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019

Looking out to Oscar standing guard under the spherical Geffen Theatre. Sorry, they like spelling it the other way: Geffen Theater

Exterior views: 

A 1940 Dick Whittington shot looking southwest across the new May Co. building with the Carthay Circle Theatre appearing in the upper center. Thanks to Nile Hight for the post of the photo on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.

The May Co. building in 1940. It's an Ansel Adams photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

The Wilshire facade c.1940. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.

Approaching from the west in 1964. It's a photo by James Caldwell in the USC Digital Library collection. 

A Carol Highsmith photo in the Library of Congress collection - c.2006

Steel rising to support the concrete panels of the sphere. Photo: Danny Schwartz - Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page - August 2017. Thanks, Danny! 


A view of the panels going up on the spherical addition. It's a Kevin Roderick photo from an October 9, 2017 post on LA Observed. Thanks to Rodney Hoffman for posting it on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.

A look at the rising sphere from the rear. Thanks to Peter Chacona Chaconas for his photo, a September 2017 post on the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.

A side view. Photo: Peter Chacona Chaconas - Mid Century Modern Los Angeles - September 2017

A closer look through the fence along Fairfax. Photo: Peter Chacona Chaconas - Mid Century Modern Los Angeles- September 2017. Thanks, Peter!

A photo by Joshua White looking out from the existing May Co. building toward what will be the level of the Dolby Terrace on top of the new sphere. The photo from AMPAS appeared with a September 2017 Curbed L.A. article on the project.

A construction photo appearing with an April 2017 Variety article "Academy Scrambles to Avert Museum Distaster." We're looking at the north side of the building where the new theatre will go. The Variety caption: "The building process has been plagued with setbacks, including the discovery of a buried mastadon."

The May Co. building. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2018

The project from Fairfax. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2018

The view from 6th and Fairfax. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2018

The 6th St. side of the sphere. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2018

Construction of the canopy continues on top. It's a view from LACMA. Photo: Steve Milner - SoCal Historic Architecture on Facebook - November 2018

A view from above. Thanks to Hunter Kerhart for the November 2018 photo. It's a post on the GrowLA Facebook page where you can spin the photo around 360 degrees if you desire as well as pan to the horizon in all directions. That's Fairfax at the bottom of the image.

Looking east. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - GrowLA on Facebook - November 2018

Looking west from the Broad building at LACMA. Photo: Brian Burchfield - Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page - January 2019 

Under the bridge connecting the main building to the sphere of the 1,000 seat Geffen Theatre. That's LACMA's Resnick Pavilion on the right, slated for demolition under their new expansion plan. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019

Looking off northwest toward Fairfax Ave. Photo: Mike Hume - February 2019. Visit Mike's Historic Theatre Photography site for thousands of great photos of the many theatres he's explored along with tech data and other historical information.  

Under the sphere looking north toward 6th St. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019

At the left, part of the north side of the main building. The facade on this side is all new construction as the building once had an annex attached, now removed. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2019 

The complex as viewed from between the Broad and Resnick buildings at LACMA. Photo: Mike Hume - February 2019 

The back of the sphere. The protrusion is the projection booth. Photo: Dennis Bkorkland - Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page - March 2019 

The view south toward Wilshire. Photo: Dennis Bkorkland - Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page - March 2019 

A look across at the progress on the canopy over the sphere. Photo: Dennis Bkorkland - Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page - March 2019. Thanks, Dennis!   

More renderings:

A rendering of the bottom of the sphere from AMPAS that appeared with the September 2017 Curbed L.A. article. There will be an entrance at the bottom, the Geffen Theatre in the middle and an observation deck, the Dolby Terrace, on the top. The strange protrusion at the top of the image is the theatre's projection booth.

A rendering of the Dolby Terrace courtesy of AMPAS.

This rendering from AMPAS looking south toward Wilshire has appeared with many articles including a March 2017 Curbed L.A. piece "Academy Museum's giant glass sphere..."

More information: 

The April 2017 Variety article "Academy Scrambles to Avert Museum Distaster" discussed schedule problems and cost overruns. The illustration is by Alexei Vella for Variety. 

Curbed L.A. has run a number of articles on the project.

The site You Are Here has a c.2000 facade photo. Wikipedia has articles on the Academy Museum, Miracle Mile and the May Company.

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