With over 13 million objects spanning everything related to moviemaking – costumes, props, screenplays, sketches and reels – the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can use a nice, sizeable space to display them all.
In 2017, it enlisted Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano to give the old Saban Building in Los Angeles a shiny new makeover and began building a space worthy of exhibiting its many silver-screen keepsakes. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures was finally completed in March this year and officially opened its doors in September.
The entire building, including the glass and concrete “Sphere” added by Piano, spans over 300,000 sq ft with more than 50,000 sq ft of galleries, two theatres, an education studio and beautiful public spaces. It is a cinephile’s paradise. Some highlights include memorabilia like the tablets from The Ten Commandments, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the typewriter Alfred Hitchcock used to write Psycho, and Mia’s yellow dress in La La Land.
The inaugural exhibitions have themes like “Bruce Lee”, “Citizen Kane”, “#MeToo”, “Climate Change” and many more, and feature hundreds of special collections highlighting Hollywood’s most enduring icons, such as Cary Grant and Alfred Hitchcock. There are, of course, theatres in the museum, too: the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theatre and the 288-seat Ted Mann Theatre within the Sphere. Films like House of Gucci and Nightmare Alley premiered there.
This is the United States’ first institution dedicated to the history, science and cultural impact of moviemaking and will probably remain the largest for a while yet. But none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for Founding Supporters like Rolex that share a passion for the pursuit and promotion of excellence, and a commitment to the art of filmmaking, the preservation of cinema and the transmission of knowledge and skills to future generations.
The most famous watch brand in history, Rolex has never used product placements in films to promote its timepieces. And yet Rolex watches have appeared in many of Hollywood’s greatest hits. Marlon Brando sported one as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, as did Paul Newman in The Colour of Money and Bill Paxton in Titanic. Rolex never had to ask. It was always the directors or actors themselves who asked for a Rolex to befit a character who had both strength and style.
But the love affair goes both ways. For years, Rolex has supported young filmmakers through its one-to-one Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, and these budding talents have worked with mentors like Martin Scorsese, Zhang Yimou, and Spike Lee. Scorsese, along with James Cameron, are Rolex Testimonees.
Even celebrities who haven’t worked with the watchmaker would know of its commitment to film since Rolex has designed and hosted The Rolex Greenroom, a private lounge reserved for presenters and special guests of The Oscars, for the last five years. In 2017, it began its formal partnership with the academy to become a Proud Sponsor of the Oscars.
Naturally, that partnership has extended to contributions to the museum. There is a designated Rolex Gallery on the building’s third floor that houses installations dedicated to the “Stories of Cinema”. These will explore the many aspects of movie-making, such as technology, artists, history and social impact.
For horology enthusiasts, the most exciting display will surely be Paul Newman’s Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona from the 1960s. Yes, the one engraved with “Drive Carefully, Me” by his wife Joanne Woodward, and sold for over US$17 million (S$23 million) at a Phillips auction in 2017. It still holds the record for being the most expensive wristwatch to go under the hammer.
Various industries frequently borrow the star power of cinema. But the fact that Rolex can become a true patron speaks volumes about the understanding of how two worlds can be united by a desire to capture a moment in time.