LA's Academy Museum Is Filled With Dazzling Costumes, Props, and Tributes to Our Favorite Films

"The Academy Museum is a love letter to the movies..."

Academy Museum
Photo: Joshua White, JW Pictures/Academy Museum Foundation

Behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is a history filled with the creative minds and stories that spawned our favorite films. And now, The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is ready to put the spotlight on it all.

Located in the home of show business, the Los Angeles museum opened its doors to the public on Sept. 30 and is filled with iconic costumes, props, and behind-the-scenes tech from beloved films. And although a dose of nostalgia is most definitely served thanks to displays dedicated to "The Wizard of Oz" and "E.T.," the exhibits and galleries go beyond the shiny surface of those ruby slippers with their storytelling, explaining how our favorite films actually found their way to the screen throughout the years.

Academy Museum
Courtesy of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

"The Academy Museum is a love letter to the movies," curator Jenny He told Travel + Leisure ahead of the opening. "It's so amazing to be able to bring this institution to life."

He specifically worked on the museum's core exhibition, "Stories of Cinema," a three-story experience which she describes as "an exhibition that looks at a wide, diverse, inclusive range of films and filmmakers who want to celebrate both, of course, the amazing accomplishments and also the complexities within film history."

Ruby Slippers
Courtesy of Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

In addition to the "Stories of Cinema" exhibit that encompasses multiple galleries — and includes an ode to Pixar and animation — other permanent exhibits shed light on the evolution of filmmaking technology and the controversial backdrop of Mt. Rushmore.

In an interactive experience, visitors who dream of being on the big screen can practice their Academy Awards acceptance speech and head to The Oscar's Experience, which requires a separate ticket.

The museum was originally slated to open in April 2021, but like the movies themselves, its premiere was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, the museum is featuring its original opening act as intended — a temporary exhibition of the works of director and filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

Academy Museum
Joshua White, JW Pictures/Academy Museum Foundation

In a time as challenging as the past year and a half, He said an institution like the Academy Museum can provide comfort, conjure up positivity, and offer the sense of escapism that comes with watching a beloved movie. (Though yes, like the rest of Los Angeles County, the museum does require masks indoors.)

"Film as an art form has always been a respite for dark moments," she said. "When we think about the movie makers responding to wartime and difficult moments, the transformative ability of cinema to provide with respite for dark and difficult times is very much in line with what filmmakers have been doing for decades."

And movie lovers of all ages and backgrounds are poised to find pockets of joy inside and out at the museum (pun intended for Pixar pros, who will appreciate displays of "Inside Out"). Whether visitors are learning about the evolution of film cameras, diversity in animation, or costumes worn by characters they've seen on screen, there's an experience for everyone.

For He, at least right now, it may be the costumes that stick out in her mind — although she likens picking a favorite display to picking a favorite child.

Academy Museum
Joshua White, JW Pictures/Academy Museum Foundation

"One of the costumes that I really gravitate towards when I walk into the 'Inventing Worlds and Characters' gallery is Okoye from 'Black Panther,'" she told T+L. "I'm simply a fan of being able to see all the details of the hand stitching and the beading in a way that you couldn't see on screen...and here in the museum, you're able to have this quiet moment to connect. When I saw this costume in person and all the detail — it's just spectacular."

The museum is open every day and requires timed tickets purchased in advance in an effort to control capacity.

Christine Burroni is Travel + Leisure's Digital News Editor. Find her keeping up with just about everything on Twitter or see what she's up to in NYC or on her latest trip on Instagram.

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