By Aaron Blevins, 5/10/2012
It may be reminiscent of a drive-in movie theatre, but patrons will likely need to exit their vehicles in order to enjoy the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences “Oscars Outdoors” screening series this summer.
The series was announced on Monday, two days after Academy staff members gave the new, $2 million outdoor venue, which is located at Vine Street and Homewood Avenue in Hollywood, a test-run under the “super moon”.
“It was unbelievable to sit out here and watch ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’,” said Randy Habercamp, the Academy’s program coordinator of educational and special projects. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun as we go forward — not just for the community but people visiting here with families.”
The venue is housed on 7.5 acres purchased by the Academy in 2006 for $50 million. It sits across the street from the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study and uses a former yoga studio as the backdrop for the screen. However, as far as the Academy is concerned, the property is still a work in progress.
“We’re just starting,” Academy President Tom Sherak said. “We still have work to do with this area. …This is just the beginning.”
“Oscars Outdoors” will begin the weekend of June 15 with screenings of “Casablanca” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It will run for 10 consecutive weeks. Fridays will generally be reserved for adults, while Saturdays are for the whole family. The movies begin at sunset, and the cost is $5 for adults, $3 for students and academy members and free for children 10 and under.
“This is not a moneymaker,” Sherak said, adding that the Academy was seeking to provide a service to the community.
Habercamp said the screening series was the result of the Academy “thinking outside the box.” He hopes future movie enthusiasts will remember visits to “Oscars Outdoors” fondly, just as he does with drive-in movie theatres.
“We’re very glad to raise the curtain on this new venue, as it provides a more relaxed and informal approach in extending our mission of celebrating motion picture excellence,” Habercamp said.
He said the Academy has chosen a variety of classic movies to appease the public’s diverse tastes. There will be westerns, cartoons, animation, short films, musicals, sing-alongs, movies that encompass Hollywood glamour and in some cases, the audience will be able to choose from several films.
“The idea was that there should be at least one film on the slate that somebody said, ‘I wanna see that. That’s one of my favorites,’” Habercamp said. “It’s a whole celebration of a wide variety of films.”
The flicks will be shown using digital projection and surround sound. Habercamp said the audio should not disturb area residents, as “we’re not showing Terminator.” He said the organization announced it early so that everyone has a chance to get tickets.
“We expect it to be very popular,” Habercamp added.
City Councilman Eric Garcetti, 13th District, attended the press conference, voicing his support for the project and the Academy’s continued investment in Hollywood. He also referenced the city’s own outdoor movie programming.
“They have been mobbed,” Garcetti said. “People love coming out.”
He said the Academy has been influential in Hollywood’s resurgence, calling the property “sacred ground.” In the 1980s, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce did a survey that showed the average tourist stayed in Hollywood for 23 minutes, Garcetti said. Now, hotels can’t keep up.
“Hollywood and Vine isn’t the butt of jokes anymore,” he said. “It’s the hottest hot spot in Los Angeles. Hollywood has truly turned the corner, and there is no going back. …To the academy, thank you for standing by Hollywood over the years — for this vote of confidence, this one-two punch, bringing the Academy Awards and keeping them here. But also for opening up this beautiful theatre.”
Sherak said the venue has an occupancy of about 350, as patrons are free to bring their own lawn chairs, picnics and blankets. However, Academy staff members noticed some residents were watching from the sidewalk during Saturday’s test-run. Sherak asked Garcetti if they could potentially shut down Homewood Avenue during the screenings so that the venue could accommodate more viewers. Garcetti said he’d see what he could do.
“I accept that,” Sherak said. “You guys have been so good for us.”
Contractors had to demolish some buildings to clear way for the screenings series. Workers also fixed up parking structures, graded, installed landscape architecture, sought entitlements and did the technical work.
“We’ll spend more,” said Sherak, who will serve popcorn during the kickoff event. “We’re committed to spend more. …This is just the beginning.”
For more information, visit www.oscars.org/outdoors.