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March 22, 2022 1:30 pm
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After Criticism, Academy Museum to Open Exhibit on Jewish Trailblazers of Hollywood

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Outside the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Photo: Josh White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will feature a permanent exhibit about the Jewish founders of Hollywood’s prominent film studios after facing backlash for excluding nearly all mention of Jewish trailblazers from the museum when it opened last year.

“Hollywoodland” will launch in late spring 2023 and chronicle the history of filmmaking in Los Angeles beginning in the early 20th century, the museum said on Monday.

It will be the institution’s first permanent exhibit, and will delve into how the founders’ “personal narratives shaped the distinct characteristics of the movies their respective studios produced,” the museum said. “It will foreground the ways in which the birth of the American film industry — and therefore the projected depiction of the American Dream — is truly an immigrant story.”

Aside from spotlighting the film studios, commonly referred to as “The Majors,” the display will also pay tribute to independent producers who worked in Hollywood in the early 1900s.

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“The history of film is endlessly rich and varied, which is why we envisioned the exhibitions of the Academy Museum as a continually evolving set of installations and virtual content,” said the museum’s director and president, Bill Kramer. “We are delighted to present a new round of stories, explorations, moving images, props, and other objects that explore the many facets of moviemaking — from the founding of Hollywood to present day.”

When the museum — the largest in the US devoted to moviemaking — opened in LA in September 2021, it hosted a two-month screening and panel series on Viennese émigrés, many of whom were Jewish, including Max Steiner, Billy Wilder, and Hedy Lamarr. However, several members and donors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science questioned why it did not include an exhibit acknowledging Hollywood’s predominately Jewish founders, with one Academy member saying, “They erased the past.”

Those members and donors “weren’t wrong in asking the question,” Kramer noted in a Monday guest column for The Hollywood Reporter that he coauthored with Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt.

“Representation and equity are core values of the museum,” they wrote. “An exhibition on the creation of Hollywood — highlighting the Jewish founders — long had been planned by the museum for a 2023 opening.” However, after a process of self-reflection and “many conversations” with stakeholders, “the museum has decided that this vital exhibition on the founding of Hollywood needs to be a permanent part of the museum.”

Kramer and Greenblatt said they plan to have the Academy Museum and ADL partner on public programs “that will present the Jewish immigrant story as a central part of Hollywood’s history” and intend to ensure “the Jewish experience, as well as the experiences of all marginalized peoples, continue to be reflected in the Academy Museum’s exhibitions, screenings, and programs.”

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