Academy Selling Hollywood Property Once Intended for Museum (Exclusive)

9:29 PM PST 08/19/2013 by Scott Feinberg, Gary Baum
Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

The land, which has hosted a summer screening series since the Academy shifted museum plans to its LACMA site, was acquired for $50 million in 2005.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is close to selling a Hollywood property once intended to be the home of its long-planned movie museum, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. In a fitting twist, proceeds from the sale are expected to go toward the fundraising effort for the museum at the alternative site the Academy ended up choosing.    

A deal to sell the property has not yet been finalized but sources say the Academy has identified a strong, as-yet-unknown suitor for the property. The Academy declined to comment.

The land, which is located immediately north of the Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study, an archive and screening facility, was intended to be the site of the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures when it was acquired in 2005. But in October 2011, the Academy and the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art announced a partnership through which the movie museum would be housed in the old Wilshire May Co. building on the LACMA campus at the northeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

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Seven months later, the Academy announced it would instead use the ArcLight Theaters-adjacent Hollywood property for "Oscars Outdoors," an open-air summer movie screening series. (Sources say that all announced installments of the popular series will continue at that location this season, and that the series will move to a new venue next summer.)

In October, 2011, then-Academy president Tom Sherak told the Los Angeles Times that AMPAS had no intention of selling its Hollywood land. "We have committed a lot of money there to raze buildings and turn the area into something that people can use," Sherak told the LA Times. "We are going to do something Academy-centric and for the community with that land."

But two months later, when the Academy unveiled plans for the outdoor theater, Sherak acknowledged in another Times interview that the site might eventually be sold -- especially if the Academy needed the proceeds to meet its fundraising goals for the new museum. He explained that the organization wanted to retain the property until its value returned to its 2005 level or higher.

The sale, then, might not come as a surprise to Academy insiders. AMPAS has been looking to raise $300 million for its Wilshire Boulevard museum, and the Hollywood property, which encompasses several acres, was purchased for $50 million and can be expected to have appreciated in value in the intervening period.

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The sale might not endear the organization to the Hollywood neighborhood it is leaving behind. Beginning in 2006, existing tenants were forced to scatter in order to create a larger, contiguous parcel for the Academy's purposes, and some -- including the last holdout, popular local yoga studio Golden Bridge -- were pressured to move to appease the glitzy newcomer.

Community stakeholders had expected AMPAS to help legitimize the neighborhood's ongoing cultural revival with its promised bold museum design by commissioned architect Christian de Portzamparc, a 1994 winner of the Pritzker Prize – architecture's equivalent of the Oscar. Those plans never came to fruition.

Now the future of the property, located south of De Longpre Avenue between Vine Street to the east and Ivar Avenue to the west, will be in the hands of its new owner.

Email: Scott.Feinberg@THR.com, Gary.Baum@THR.com

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