After several delays, the Motion Picture Academy unveiled its gleaming new 1,000-seat theater to an impressed press and public audience Friday during a tour of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on the eve of Oscar weekend. The upshot: The Academy will have a lot less trouble next year persuading its voters to attend screenings of Oscar contenders once it supplants its aging Samuel Goldwyn Theater, with its creaky seats and problematic sight lines.
The new David Geffen Theater, situated in the imposing Sphere Building, offers impressive technological innovations and, its vast stage, unlike the cramped Goldwyn, is equipped for stage productions and other presentations. It was on display along with other Academy Museum features including the Barbra Streisand Bridge, Steve Tisch Terrace and the Bob Iger and Willow Bay Terrace, all of which officially represent 95% of the total campaign fundraising goals — over $368 million in pledges and cash.
While the Museum is now structurally complete, its specific exhibitions, build-out and artifacts are not as yet on display. The much delayed Museum will have its opening later in 2020, according to Bill Kramer, the museum’s newly installed director. He added: “We are moving closer toward completing our pre-opening campaign and launching the world’s premier destination for movie lovers.”
The Campaign for the Academy Museum is headed by chair Iger, with Ron Meyer serving as chair of the Board of Trustees. The 300,000 square foot Museum campus, located at Wilshire and Fairfax, sits on the onetime site of the May Company and was designed by Renzo Piano. It is now renamed the Saban Bulding, its first design unveiled in 2012.
The Geffen theater will screen 35MM, 70MM and digital laser projections, and, for historic purposes, also has nitrate capabilities. Adjoining it is a 288-seat Ted Mann Theater, aimed for Saturday morning children’s matinees, among other purposes.
The Geffen’s bright red seats do not have the plush padding or arm-chair comforts of some contemporary theater palaces, but the theater presents a far brighter aura than its predecessor.