The folks behind the Oscars are entertaining the idea of building a shrine to celluloid.
Flush with $134 million in profits generated from its annual presentation of Hollywood's biggest night, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is looking to go on a spending spree and undertake the biggest project ever in the history of the organization--the construction of a museum celebrating motion pictures.
The Academy's board of governors, which includes the likes of Tom Hanks and writer-director Frank Pierson (the current Academy president), has given the greenlight for a committee to study the prospect of installing a "world-class" institution in the heart of Los Angeles.
"It's been talked about for years," said Academy spokesman John Pavlick. "The committee is meeting to determine whether this thing is feasible. It's not a done deal and...could take seven to 10 years before it can conceivably be a reality."
No official word on the pricetag, location or architect. Pavlick stresses that the organization is simply exploring the idea. But sources tell the Los Angeles Times that, if approved, the Academy would pay upwards of $200 million for the state-of-the-art shrine.
Academy officials say the museum will ultimately house the organization's collection of priceless artifacts from Hollywood's golden age now scattered in various locations across Los Angeles.
Potential material could come from the Academy's Margaret Herrick Research Library, which has movie posters dating back to the silent era and a cache of props, like the clothes Vivien Leigh wore in the final moments of Gone with the Wind.
The museum will also serve as a film education center and likely focus on preservation as well.
But Pavlick notes that whatever the Academy eventually decides to put in the museum, the collection itself "would have to be developed from scratch," since the 6,500-member organization does not currently have the ability to store large amounts of memorabilia.
And any content, says Pavlick, would also be interactive and immersive. "At no time did [Academy executives] want it just to be static displays. They want it to be something special," said Pavlick.
The Academy also wants the building to be both a tourist destination and a cultural landmark for Southern California--a "major statement" along the lines of the $1.3 billion J. Paul Getty Museum and the $274 million Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The dream of the Acadmey constructing a museum dedicated to movies first surfaced in the last decade, when Academy director Bruce Davis sought to put to work the ever increasing revenue coming in from Oscar broadcast rights.
This year, the Academy is projected to take in more than $50 million in awards-related revenue, a 55 perent increase from the $41 million collected in 1991. And because it's a nonprofit, all those funds go straight into the bank.
According to the Times, the Academy plans to approach Disney-owned ABC, network home of the Oscars for the past two decades, about negotiating a bigger deal in advance of the current contract expiring in 2008.
Funds for the museum will also be supplemented by Academy members' dues and donations along with financing and tax breaks expected to be provided by local government.
For Pierson, the matter of the museum is a high priority.
"The time has come to make the decision to go ahead and do it before somebody else does it badly," said Pierson. "And do it the way the Academy should do it, truly representing the film community."