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Over the course of a few days in early September, major donors who helped bring to life Los Angeles’ first-ever movie museum were photographed exclusively for The Hollywood Reporter at the new arts institution.
For this special look inside the new Renzo Piano-designed, $484 million Academy Museum, which kicks off with a gala event on Sept. 25 and an official opening on Sept. 30, THR spotlights Netflix co-CEO and museum board chair Ted Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant (along with Sidney Poitier’s daughter Sydney Poitier) inside the Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby, for which the couple spearheaded fundraising.
Dagmar Dolby, wife of the late Ray Dolby of Dolby Laboratories, and the couple’s children, Tom, Natasha and David, were photographed on the Dolby Family Terrace, a space with sweeping views of L.A. that sits atop the museum’s new Sphere Building, which houses the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater.
Dominic Ng, the CEO of East West Bank, was photographed at the gallery which houses the museum’s Oscars Experience attraction, while Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg came for a photoshoot outside their eponymous gallery, where an exhibit showcasing Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is set to open.
THR also spoke with entertainment mogul and philanthropist Haim Saban, who made a $50 million donation to the institution with his wife, Cheryl, in 2018; to honor the gift, the museum renamed the historic May Company building — which houses the exhibition spaces, the lobby, the gift store and soon-to-open restaurant Fanny’s — The Saban Building.
And Barbra Streisand wrote to THR about her decision to support the construction of the Barbra Streisand Bridge, which connects the museum’s two buildings and, relaying an anecdote about the making of A Star Is Born, why she’s so pleased that it’s located near the space named for the Dolbys.
SIDNEY POITIER GRAND LOBBY
Sydney Poitier, Nicole Avant and Ted Sarandos
“I was always shocked that there was not a movie museum in Hollywood,” says board chair and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos. “There’s great cinema museums all over the world and not one in the heart of movie-making. That’s why it’s been so sexy and intriguing for people for 90 years to build it.” When he and his wife, Avant, were looking for a way to contribute, their friend Irena Medavoy suggested a tribute to Sidney Poitier, the 94-year-old screen legend and civil rights activist who had been like a godfather to Avant when she was growing up. They involved the actor’s daughter, Sydney Poitier, in a campaign to name the lobby in his honor. “I don’t think it’s coincidental that it’s the entry because Sidney represents the entry,” Avant says. “He opened the doors for so many others.”
BARBRA STREISAND BRIDGE
“I like bridges,” the star tells THR of supporting the construction of the bridge which connects the historic Saban Building and the new Sphere Building, “because bridges connect us, just as the stories we tell in movies connect us and lead us to a deeper understanding of other people’s lives, as well as our own. And this bridge connects the old building with the new, the past with the future. It was important to me to be part of a museum that celebrates the history of movies and hopefully will inspire future filmmakers. I’m very proud to have my name on this lovely bridge.”
She also reminisced about her film career and its connection to Dolby Laboratories.
“In 1976, when I was mixing the sound for my film A Star Is Born, a man who said he was from a company called Dolby walked in and told me about this new, untested technology where the sound could surround the viewer,” she wrote.
“I said, ‘That’s exactly what I need.’ Since A Star Is Born was a film with music and we recorded all the songs live, I was determined to capture that authenticity. In the very first scene, you’re plunged into a rock concert, and I wanted the audience to feel as if they were right there in the arena, immersed in that pulsing surround sound … just like in real life. I’m proud of the fact that A Star Is Born was the first film to be released in Dolby Stereo, as told in the 2019 documentary, Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Isn’t it amazing that 45 years later, Dolby and I are connected again? The Barbra Streisand Bridge at the Academy Museum leads to the Dolby Family Terrace. There’s something magical about that.”
DOLBY FAMILY TERRACE
Tom, Dagmar, Natasha and David Dolby
The family of late Dolby Laboratories founder Ray Dolby not only gifted audiovisual technology for the buildings’ theaters but also made a major donation to the capital campaign of the museum, which named the breathtaking space atop the sphere structure the Dolby Family Terrace. Dagmar, Ray’s wife, calls the view from the space out to the Hollywood Hills “fantastic” and says she feels “very proud” seeing the Dolby name on the terrace. “Many years ago when it first started appearing on the movie theaters or in the ads in the newspapers, I actually saved some old [San Francisco] Chronicles that would say ‘Dolby System,’ because I thought maybe one day it’s so commonplace that they won’t mention it anymore,” she admits. Ray Dolby’s commitment to quality is evident at the museum, with the company providing technology such as Dolby Vision and Atmos in the Mann and Geffen theaters as well as advising on the terrace’s acoustical challenges due to the dome-shaped glass. “We take for granted now that sound is so important,” reflects son David. “My dad always used to tell these stories [about] how sound was sort of the poor stepchild of the cinema experience. It wasn’t until Star Wars coming out that people really realized what the potential was and it started to make sense. So for our Dolby name to be in this incredible space, at the top of an incredible museum, it feels like we’ve come a long way.” Son Tom adds that he thinks his father would have “loved this and loved that it overlooks Hollywood, which is where the Dolby office used to be before they moved to Burbank. So it resonates and is very important for us as a family.” — CAROLYN GIARDINA
EAST WEST BANK GALLERY
East West Bank CEO Ng, who has financed film deals in Hollywood and Asia, joined the museum’s board in 2018 after an invitation from Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “When I first joined, it was the #OscarsSoWhite scenario, but if you look at what the Academy has done, it’s just a tremendous job in terms of inclusion,” Ng says, noting the number of newly invited Academy members of Asian descent. The East West Bank Gallery houses the Oscars Experience, where visitors can hold an Oscar statuette and deliver an acceptance speech before a digital audience. “We wanted to see that when folks come in, not only from L.A., but around the world, that they could get that Oscar experience. That gives people inspiration. Who knows? Some kids want to be an actor or actress someday, and that’s why they come here.”
MARILYN AND JEFFREY KATZENBERG GALLERY
Jeffrey and Marilyn Katzenberg
After opening with a Hayao Miyazaki show, the Katzenberg gallery will be home to a rotating slate of exhibitions. “I arrived in Hollywood 45 years-ish ago, and from the moment I arrived, right at the very top of the aspiration list is Oscar and everything that it represents,” says Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney chairman and DreamWorks Animation and Quibi founder. “This museum is probably the greatest representation of the Academy, and great films, and great filmmaking. This industry has been incredibly good to me and Marilyn, and to be able to support it through the museum just seemed something that was a must-do.”
THE SABAN BUILDING
Cheryl and Haim Saban
Haim Saban has fond memories of the site of the new museum, where the May Company department store operated from 1939 to 1992. He recalls that when his mother used to visit from Israel, he would take her shopping there “so she can buy tennis shoes or I don’t know what for her grandchildren.” But when Bob Iger asked him to make a $50 million donation to the Academy Museum’s capital campaign, “I took a deep breath and I controlled my sweat and I told him, ‘Let me think about it.’ ” With urging from Cheryl, the couple ultimately made the gift, the museum’s largest, and now the May Company is the Saban Building, named for the couple. “Hollywood is the entertainment center of the world, and not to have a museum that immortalizes [everything] that goes into making a movie in one place, it was kind of bizarre that it didn’t exist,” Haim says. “But now it does exist, and we’re very proud and grateful to be a part of it.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Sept. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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