The Academy Museum’s Launch Is Off to a Star-Studded Start

The long-awaited addition to L.A.’s museum row is pulling out all the stops in advance of its September 30 opening

After about a decade of fits and starts—not to mention the 90ish years since Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks first floated the idea of a movie museum—the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures finally opens to the public on Thursday, September 30.

On Saturday, the occasion kicked off with a huge opening-night fundraising gala co-chaired by Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, and Jason Blum; honoring Sophia Loren; and giving recognition to big-time Academy fundraisers Bob Iger, Annette Bening, and Tom Hanks. The evening had an invite list only rivaled by the Academy Awards themselves: Cher, Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Stewart, Tiffany Haddish, Kate Hudson (in a Saint Laurent leather mini and sparkly cape), Regina King, Regina Hall, Spike Lee (pairing his Louis Vuitton shawl-collar tux with a baseball cap and yellow round glasses), Angela Bassett, Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom (making out for the cameras), and model Kaia Gerber with beau Jacob Elordi. Jennifer Hudson’s electric-blue beaded Alexandre Vauthier number was the best look of the night, and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s asymmetric stark-white Stella McCartney column gown was a close second. Olivia Rodrigo’s Saint Laurent gown had a daring plunging neckline that got the internet talking. After a tour of the space, the starry hordes were entertained by Lady Gaga, who performed an hour-long set that included a rendition of “New York, New York.”

That A-plus-list gala will be followed this week by no fewer than three other opening events, including a formal dedication ceremony on Thursday featuring the museum’s top officers, plus Mayor Eric Garcetti, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, and a slew of civic leaders.

You could argue that all the pomp and circumstance is actually in line with the launch of the seven-story, 300,000-square-foot, $484 million behemoth at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax. Inside, there’s already a lot to see, including the Oscars Experience, a simulation that transports visitors to the stage at the Dolby Theater; a three-gallery exhibit called Stories of Cinema; an exhibit dedicated to the massive Mount Rushmore backdrop used in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; and a celebration of the work of artist and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

In the Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby, the restaurant Fanny—named for famed vaudeville star Fanny Brice, grandmother of philanthropist Wendy Stark who endowed it—will be open for breakfast and lunch with dinner service coming later in the fall. And don’t skip the museum store, which features 2,600 square feet of original merch designed by members of the different branches of the Academy: production designers, directors, and costume designers. Oscar-winning Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter, for instance, designed exclusive jewelry for the store. And The Wizard of Oz will get its own T-shirts, handbags, and tote bags by costume designer Arianne Phillips and designer Jeremy Scott of Moschino.

Last Tuesday, the Renzo Piano-designed museum opened its doors for a media preview, with opening speeches by actress Anna Kendrick, museum director and president Bill Kramer, Academy president David Rubin, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, artistic and programming director Jacqueline Stewart and, adding some levity to the proceedings, Tom Hanks, a trustee of the museum who helped lead fundraising efforts with Annette Bening. When the double Best Actor Oscar winner walked to the podium to a stilted reaction from a stoic crowd of journalists, he quipped, ”Thank you for holding your applause.” He went on to catalogue the museum’s impressive legacy-in-the-making and to plug the October 12 ABC special A Night at the Museum, which features Hanks, Laura Dern, Annette Bening, Geena Davis, Aldis Hodge, Marlee Matlin, Melissa McCarthy, Jurnee Smollett, and others showing off the space to an at-home audience of potential visitors. Post pandemic, it’s angling to be one of the top tourist attractions in town—and it’s already getting a big boost from big stars.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. news, food, and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.