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Spielberg and Katzenberg give $10 million each to L.A. film museum

November 20, 2013|By Mike Boehm
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg at a 2009 gala in Beverly Hills.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, left, and Steven Spielberg at a 2009 gala in Beverly… (Danny Moloshok / Associated…)

Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg are giving $10 million each to the funding campaign to build an Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and will have their names on galleries branching off its ground floor lobby.

They fall in behind David Geffen ($25 million) and the Chinese business conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group ($20 million) as the leading donors to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ effort to establish a major movie museum at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Bill Kramer, managing director of the academy's museum project, said the two gifts lift the total pledges past $200 million. The aim is to reach the $300-million goal by late next year, when the academy expects to begin construction with an eye toward opening by summer 2017. 

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In 1994, Spielberg and Katzenberg joined Geffen in announcing the creation of a new film and entertainment company, DreamWorks SKG. Now their names will be tied together at the museum. A 1,000-seat cinema, the David Geffen Theater, will be housed in a see-through sphere next to the museum building, and the Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg Gallery and the Spielberg Family Gallery will be the first galleries visitors see inside the museum designed by architects Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali.

“Having our family name on the lobby floor is a deeply personal way to say how much motion pictures and the academy have meant to all our lives,” said Spielberg, director of  too many blockbuster films to list conveniently, with “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan” and last year’s “Lincoln” among them.

“Both Steven and I recognize that film’s global impact deserves a museum that reflects its unequaled heritage and serves as a beacon for the future of what we love,” said Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation, a separate company formed in the mid-2000s, when the original DreamWorks SKG was sold to Paramount Pictures. 

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Last year, Geffen, Spielberg and Katzenberg were linked philanthropically when each gave $30 million to a leading entertainment industry charity, the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which funds healthcare, housing and emergency financial aid for entertainment industry workers.

When the Academy Museum opens, visitors will have their choice of entering its lobby from beneath Geffen's cinema bubble, in which case the Spielberg and Katzenberg galleries will be on their left, the side nearest LACMA; or they can enter from Wilshire, with the two gallery entrances to their right. The museum's cafe and store will be on the opposite side of the lobby from the galleries, nearer Fairfax Avenue.

The museum’s second-floor gallery, devoted to film history, will be called the Wanda Gallery in honor of Dalian Wanda, whose holdings include the AMC Theatres cinema chain.  

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The Spielberg gallery will be on both the ground level and a below-ground level, housing a permanent exhibit called "Making Of" that explores how movies are made. It will include interactive features intended to give visitors hands-on encounters with aspects of the craft of moviemaking.

The Katzenberg gallery will be for touring exhibitions that run four to six months each, Kramer said. Some of its shows will be imported from other museums, and some will be originated by the Academy Museum, which will debut them in L.A., then send them to other venues.

"Jeffrey and Steven have been working with us from the beginning of this project and have been closely connected to all stages of planning and design," Kramer said. An important next step in the process will be hiring a chief curator whose job will include structuring the museum's staff as well as planning exhibitions and programs.

"We have a few very strong candidates and we're circling in" on a hiring decision, Kramer said. "We should know very soon."

Bob Iger, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and chief executive who’s chairing the museum’s funding campaign (with actors Annette Bening and Tom Hanks as its co-chairs), said in the written announcement of the new gifts that it was fitting that Spielberg and Katzenberg had channeled their passion for filmmaking and philanthropy to “preserve the history of motion pictures and inspire the next generation of filmmakers.”

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