Contrary to plans previously announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will not open in 2019, or any time prior to the 92nd Oscars on Feb. 9, 2020.
The $388 million project on the site of the old May Co. department store on the Miracle Mile, which was first announced in 2012, was initially slated to cost $250 million and open in 2017, but it has been delayed several times now. The cost and date changes are reportedly largely due to unanticipated challenges involving the Death Star-like spherical structure that will be the space’s defining feature.
An Academy Museum spokesperson downplayed the situation in a statement released Thursday: “The Academy Museum’s intention is to create a unique and unparalleled museum experience. Achieving this has required a highly complex construction effort — renovating a 1939 L.A. landmark, building a new spherical structure that includes a 1,500-panel glass dome and joining them together to produce 300,000 square feet of spectacular public and exhibition space.”
The statement continues: “At every decision point along the way, we have always chosen the path that would enhance the structure, even if that meant construction would take more time to complete. Similarly, when we were presented with opportunities to expand the scope of our exhibitions, interior spaces and collection for the visitor experience, we have embraced them.”
It concludes: “As we continue working through the permitting process and move closer to completion, we are weighing the overall schedule for major industry events in 2020, and on this basis will choose the optimal moment for our official opening.”
Late last year, the Academy announced that it has raised more than 80 percent of the $388 million it needs to finish the project, thanks to donations both large (from the likes of Netflix and Bloomberg Philanthropies) and small. And work on the ambitious project, which is visible from both Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard, does appear to be progressing steadily. The Academy has given many journalists and VIPs hard-hat tours of the site, and in December hosted a luncheon announcing the first exhibits being planned and a ceremonial lighting of the exterior of the museum’s Saban Building (made possible by a $50 million gift from Cheryl and Haim Saban), which drew the likes of Tom Hanks and Yalitza Aparicio.
It remains to be seen who will be leading the Academy when the Academy Museum finally opens. Current president John Bailey is terming out of office next month, and his successor will not be chosen until then.