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Academy to open Oscars Outdoors

Summertime screenings, film preservation highlight org's latest efforts

Boosting its footprint in Hollywood, the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will open its new Oscars Outdoors screening space with 10 weekends of film presentations beginning June 15.

In addition, the Academy also formally unveiled its $2 million “Film-to-Film” preservation initiative and announced other events, including a 50th-anniversary celebration of the James Bond series and 100th-anniversary tribute to Universal.

Oscars Outdoors is part of the Academy’s 7.5-acre campus straddling Homewood Ave. along Vine St. in Hollywood. More than $2 million has spent on demolition and improvements to the screening area, including a 40-by-20-foot screen, above the $50 million-plus that Acad prexy Tom Sherak said has been spent on land acquisition. The site had originally been intended for an Academy museum, which will instead be created in the former May Co. building on the LACMA campus.

“We’re just starting,” Acad prexy Tom Sherak said. “We still have more we want to do in this area.”

An invitation-only screening of “Field of Dreams” will christen the site May 19, with “Casablanca” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” kicking off the Friday-Saturday screening series in June. Saturday films, in particular, will be targeted for filmgoers of all ages, with admission free on either night for children age 10 and younger.

“We hope that it will be a destination for families and diehard film fans, as well as a positive benefit for the community,” Academy managing director of programming, education and preservation Randy Haberkamp said. “We expect it to be very popular.”

The outdoor screening space is designed for attendees to bring picnic blankets and low-rise lawn chairs and has an intended capacity of approximately 500. Food trucks will be directed to the area, which includes a 10,000-square-foot outdoor plaza that can also host other functions. At a press conference Monday, Sherak asked Los Angeles city councilman Eric Garcetti to explore closing Homewood during screenings to create an even more pedestrian-friendly venue.

The sound system has also been tailored specifically to the space, Haberkamp added.

“If you’re in that little area, it feels nice and loud, but it’s not booming around the neighborhood,” he said. “We could have built seats here. It wasn’t a budget issue; it was more of a feeling issue.”

The Film-to-Film project, which began in 2011, has already taken 300 films, docs, experimental works, shorts and home movies of Hollywood figures under its wing, with a two-fold purpose: to respect the filmmaking in its original format — amid a decline in the availability of film stock — and to bridge the uncertainty over the best practices for digital preservation.

“This is not about preferring an antique medium and turning a blind eye toward digital preservation,” Haberkamp said. “What concerns us is the digital present. Right now there are no standard file formats. The technology itself isn’t even fixed.

“So to take a delicate or at-risk element on film that may have been with us for almost a century, and preserve it on a format that might not be readable in five years, is of obvious concern. So we’re saving these films so that they can be shown on film as they were originally presented, but also so that later on, we’ll have quality elements to make the best digital scans as technology evolves.”

Film-to-Film preservation efforts have included 1920’s “The Mark of Zorro,” 1972’s “Sleuth,” Saul Bass’ “Notes on the Popular Arts” (1977) and reels on Japanese-American life in Southern California before World War II. The Academy has also acquired 35mm prints of such films as 1950’s “The Asphalt Jungle” for preservation.

Among happenings on the events front, the Academy also announced “The Last 70mm Film Festival,” which will be held over six weeks at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills with presentations of six classic films in the format of their original release: “The Sound of Music,” “Spartacus,” “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Grand Prix” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Haberkamp noted that despite the event’s title, a successful series could spawn a sequel.

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