At The Movie Museum, Like The Rest Of L.A., It’s All About The Parking


You might be tempted to blame Covid for those awkward “timed ticketing” protocols at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Pick a time. Reserve in advance. No early entry. No guarantees if you show up after a 30-minute grace period. No refunds. Timed tickets required even for free child’s admission.

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But all of that has nothing to do with the virus. It’s about the parking. In Los Angeles, it usually is.

At the movie museum, which finally opened last week, parking has long been an Achilles heel — a weak spot that leaves the whole project not exactly crippled but walking with a slight limp.

In short form, the museum — which has a growing staff, is said to have received about 2,400 visitors on its opening day (at half capacity for Covid), and can accommodate about 1,000 in its main theater — was built without a parking garage. Instead, it relies on contractual access to 378 out of 519 existing spaces in the underground Pritzker garage, which already services the adjoining Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and an additional 166 spaces across Wilshire Boulevard at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Except possibly on two nights or weekend days each month, when the Petersen is allowed to reclaim its spaces. In that case, the spillover moves to 6100 Wilshire Blvd., an office building whose underground garage can provide up to 388 spaces under a lease that allows the museum, on a busy event night, to require attendants for stacked parking within the drive aisles.

Sound complicated? It is, but that’s just the beginning.

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Those triple-lease parking arrangements were approved by the City of Los Angeles in June under a 22-page zoning variance that is supposed to protect neighbors and crosstown travelers from the hazards of congestion at a fancy new museum that doesn’t have its own garage. All of which required more requirements (or, in some cases, strong suggestions). Those include bike racks and lockers, circulation of information on alternative travel arrangements, coordinated event scheduling with LACMA, development of apps to share real-time parking information, staff transit subsidies, possible appointment of an on-site Transit Demand Coordinator, a suggested donation to the city’s Bicycle Plan Trust Fund and, above all, “a timed ticketing program, as appropriate, to manage hourly and daily volumes on design and peak attendance days, as needed.”

In other words, you can’t count on dropping into the Academy Museum on a whim, as for years visitors have done at LACMA or the Petersen. Advance reservations are advised. Your preferred time slot won’t be available if too many people share your preference.

For the record, the off-street parking options aren’t free, and none is cheap. An online check shows the Pritzker fee to be $18. The Petersen charges $21. The spillover office building wants $11 an hour, to a maximum of $25. (And, no, the museum doesn’t validate.)

Those fees come atop the $25-per-adult entry fee at the museum, which charges another $15 for a separate ticket to its “The Oscars Experience” exhibit. Add a couple of breakfast burritos and some fizzy water at the on-site restaurant, Fanny’s, plus a souvenir, and the two of you are in for a $150 date.

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(Privately, some Academy members are grumbling about having to pay fees at a museum supported by their own institution; it might give them something to discuss at a newly promised annual meeting.)

You could, of course, take a ride-share service, which the city’s planning and zoning people would much prefer. But Los Angeles is a very big place. If the online calculators are right, a ride from and back to Santa Monica — not an especially remote point — would cost as much as the parking options.

Those who are charmed by history will remember that the old May Co. building, now reborn as the Academy Museum, was once known as “the Gateway to the Miracle Mile,” a strip of Wilshire that was developed specifically to accommodate car culture. The buildings were supposed to be best viewed through a windshield. Every merchant was required to provide parking, most of it in spacious lots that sat behind the stores. Behind the May Co., near where the museum’s giant sphere now sits, was an enormous, tiered lot that appears in old photos to have parked 250 cars on each of its several floors.

People came and went pretty much when they pleased — no timed tickets needed. Which, I suppose, could happen again, maybe when the nearby Purple Line subway station finally opens. At present, that’s scheduled for 2023.

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