Michael Cieply: Two Weeks Out, The Academy Museum Preps A Cautious But Correct ‘Hollywoodland’ Opening

Two weeks from today, finally, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open its new permanent exhibition, Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital. For many, it amounts to an act of completion. A Hollywood film museum without a special tribute to Jewish roots has felt for the last two-and-a-half years like a church without a tabernacle, a history made up of footnotes without the text.

Something big was missing.

More from Deadline

Arriving now—amid strife over Gaza, rising anti-Semitism, and threats to Israel’s existence—the exhibition is born at a time heightened sensitivities, to put it mildly. Universities are a war zone for Gaza-related protests. Political conventions are bracing for trouble this summer. Not two months ago, the film Academy’s Oscar broadcast was delayed (slightly) by anti-Israel action in the streets.

So it’s a ticklish moment for an overdue testament to Jewish influence in filmland. Better by far if the display were met by better times.

Still, the museum, to its credit, seems to be taking a correct, if cautious, course.

No, there won’t be a semi-gala opening, as for the debut of the ReGeneration black film exhibit in 2022, when the tap-dancing Nicholas Sisters entertained Academy honchos Bill Kramer, Janet Yang and Ted Sarandos. Nor is there any sign yet of a Balabusta Story Hour (cf. Leo Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish) to match the Drag Queen Story Hour that was briefly scheduled (then reconsidered) in connection with museum’s John Waters: Pope of Trash exhibit last year.

And, yes, some Academy officials may still be in France when the exhibit opens, following a May 17 members reception in Cannes.

But there will be a two-hour press preview, from 10 a.m. until noon on Thursday, May 16. Museum member previews are scheduled all day on May 17 and 18. On Sunday, May 19, at 4:30 p.m., comes a conversation and book signing with associate curator Dara Jaffe and author Neal Gabler, whose An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood laid tracks for the exhibit.

The museum’s chief executive Jacqueline Stewart, we’re told, is expected to attend all of the above. With time, more associated events will follow. Who knows? Maybe even a Balabusta Story Hour. In the current circumstances, a proud, quiet opening will do.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.