Yesterday was the experience of a lifetime. I was privileged to attend one of several days of pre-opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (AMMP).
But as they say in the movies, here is the backstory.
In 2005, I received a call from the museum coordinator, the only paid employee at the time, to provide a proposal for a feasibility study for a new museum. I had been involved with the feasibility/concept development for the Dolby (Academy) Theater at Hollywood and Highland several years before, so luckily I was on the radar.
When the Academy decided to finally move ahead with the century long museum planning, I got a call. “Can you help us out with the market research and financial feasibility testing of our museum? We don’t know what it is, where it is, or size, but still, can you help us? All we know is that we want it to be the boldest statement ever made on the history and effect of film!” It was the luckiest call of my life!
The director at the time was a brilliant woman, an entertainment business expert and a published fiction writer. She made the job that much more stimulating and creative! We worked with her on many teams hired (many then fired) to provide concept development, site location analysis, market research, and financial feasibility testing.
In all, we did 15 different analyses of multiple sites, configurations, sizes, square footages, models, retail, dining, and ancillary spaces within the museum. First question, “Should it be in Hollywood?” YES of course. You don’t need an expensive consultant to tell you that!
Please note, the museum is not located in Hollywood, because of about a thousand different reasons.
We first looked at the surrounding area of the Academy Library just north of Sunset and Vine, proximate to the Cinerama Dome Theater (closed for now, went out of business). In terms of the macro considerations, and what the world thinks they understand about Hollywood, that is one of the top 5 locations. And for the first five years of this process, that was the site we tested, studied, analyzed, and then amassed the real estate around the site to provide sufficient space for the new museum. This process was ongoing, before we even knew requisite square footage based on market capture, annual attendance, design day attendance and parking needed.
Remember, this is Southern California. No one is going anywhere without their car. It may be changing a bit now because of environmental concerns and traffic, but Angelenos are still in love with their vehicles.
That was the first of many sites studied because of careful planning, management by committee, and economic circumstances, (which included booms and busts, the Bernie Madoff catastrophe with lots of Hollywood money lost), and change in leadership. All in all, the museum cost over $500 million including all the planning efforts, development and hard/soft costs. Not the most expensive museum in the United States, but one of them.
Some of the planning sessions and meetings were lifechanging. I got into an argument with Jon Landis over projected attendance. I got tongue tied in a meeting with Tom Hanks.
One of the earliest concepts, which I believe I came up with in concert with the gentleman who was head of the Hollywood/Highland project, was the “Red Carpet “ or “Oscar” experience, a chance for everyday folks to experience what it is like to walk the red carpet and then win an Oscar. I came from a show business family. I was enamored with the process from the first ceremony I remember watching. It was always an event at my house, with canapés and a hush over the living room when the awards were presented! I always dreamed of going to the Academy Awards.
And my dream came true this week!
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