EXCLUSIVE: The Motion Picture Academy’s $400 million film museum, announced seven years ago but delayed by disagreements and management turnover, has now gotten its green light to move forward again under a newly appointed director.
According to sources within the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the Academy has designated a familiar name, Bill Kramer, who between 2012-2016 served as the museum’s manager of development but departed to become vice president of development at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
A gifted fundraiser, Kramer, 51, helped rally donors in the Academy Museum’s early stages and played a similar role in Brooklyn. The appointment of Kramer, notes one museum insider, avoids the problems posed by bringing in a more widely recognized member of the museum fraternity who might want to initiate broad changes.
The Academy initially unveiled its ambitious plans early last summer, with a promise to open in 2020. Following an elaborate lunch and tours of the still-unfinished structure, plans were suddenly put on hold this pasts August triggered by the resignation of Kerry Brougher, its respected director. At the time, there were reports of conceptual disagreements between members of the Academy board and its more academically oriented museum professionals.
The museum has been governed by a complicated structure, with policy recommendations coming from the Academy’s Board of Governors, the Academy’s Museum Foundation and a third board comprising professional museum officials. “Philosophical differences inevitably came forward,” said one Academy member and donor close to the project. “Was it all going to be about a museum or a show business museum?”
The Academy was first announced as a $250 million edifice, but its ambitions expanded over the years, encompassing more exhibits and more interior space. Hovering atop a 1939 May Company structure, the museum encompasses a spherical glass dome designed by Renzo Piano. Its exhibitions announced early on included a retrospective of the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese filmmaker, and a program titled “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970.”
Even as funds were being raised, construction of a Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was announced featuring Star Wars artifacts along with other exhibitions. Its design was intended to undercut “the artificial divisions between high and popular art,” according to an early announcement. These “divisions” reportedly posed problems for the Academy’s much broader and far-reaching aspirations.
The Lucas Museum, which will be free to the public, was originally going to open in San Francisco, but George Lucas and his colleagues clashed with city officials, resulting in the switch to Los Angeles.
The cost of the Academy Museum is presently listed at $388 million, but it is understood that additional fundraising will be required, pushing the project past the $400 million mark. Ron Meyer, long a top executive at NBCUniversal, heads the museum’s board, and, according to reports, has been a major factor in bringing the divergent points of view together under an anticipated new regime.
Further appointments are expected at the museum staff.