On Oscar Sunday, beloved American superstar Tom Hanks made a point of announcing on the telecast that the long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which has been under construction for years and was previously projected to open in 2016, would finally open to the public on December 14, 2020. There have been many bumps in the road for this particular museum, which has faced frequent development woes associated with cost and its elaborate design; the plan for the institution was dreamed up by the magnanimous Italian architect Renzo Piano. On Wednesday, Variety reported that the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is now $100 million over budget: projected costs for finishing the museum have leapt from $388 million to $482 million.
Just weeks ago, the Academy was saying that they had raised 95 percent of the funds they’d need to construct the museum, and now, it seems that the organization will have to launch a fundraising campaign in order to neutralize their debt. How exactly did this happen? Renzo Piano’s design is certainly elaborate, but he can’t be blamed for all of the mounting costs. According to Variety’s report, Piano’s plans for two small, 141-seat theaters (in addition to the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater) were jettisoned by the Academy, who elected to merge the smaller theaters into one 288-seat theater, leading to a bigger price tag.
Additionally, the parts of the museum that aren’t being originally dreamed up by Piano are to be located in L.A.’s Saban Building, which used to house the May Co. department store in the 20th century. In order for the building to be renovated to meet the museum’s needs, big costs have been incurred so as to preserve the integrity of the structure, which was originally built in 1939.
It’s undoubtable that this museum has been a dream for the moviemaking industry for a very long time, which means that a big sticker price is perhaps all the more worth it. But just because a museum is elaborate doesn’t mean that people are going to show up and buy tickets, especially when the movie business has been changed so irrevocably by the internet and streaming services. In other words, only time will tell whether the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is a runaway hit or a total flop.
Correction: An earlier version of this article implied that the museum would only contain one theater. It will have two: a 288-seat venue, and the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater.