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What’s at the Oscar Museum and How to Visit It

Last update: March 10, 2023

To most people, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is known, if it’s known at all, as the stuffy group behind the Oscars.

Within Hollywood’s mighty film business, though, the Academy is Mount Olympus, where more than 10,000 members, all gods of moviemaking, are invited to gather so they may preserve, honor, and share the heritage of motion pictures throughout the world. The organization is central to a long tradition of collaboration for the sake of an industry.

Founded in 1927, at the tail end of the silent era, the Academy advocated for a motion picture museum right from the start, around the same time the group started handing out awards (with little fanfare at first).

It took almost a century, but the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures finally arrived in 2021.

The location: a stately Los Angeles department store, built five stories tall in the Streamline Moderne style in 1939, a year considered by many the apotheosis in American film. The Academy hollowed out the store, stripped it to its prewar bones, and filled it with 250,000 square feet of lighting-controlled gallery space.

The former May Company store has been painstakingly augmented and converted into a cutting-edge gathering place to learn about film history and methods, see precious artifacts, and watch screenings of material both popular and rare.

The museum is the international tourist attraction dedicated to the movies that Los Angeles has always craved but never had—until now.