The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures presents Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital, the museum’s first permanent exhibition, on view beginning May 19, 2024. Hollywoodland, presented in English and Spanish, tells the origin story of filmmaking in early 20th-century Los Angeles, spotlighting the impact of the predominately Jewish filmmakers whose establishment of the American film studio system transformed Los Angeles into a global epicenter of cinema. Hollywoodland is curated by Dara Jaffe, associate curator, with support from Gary Dauphin, former associate curator of digital presentations, and Josue L. Lopez, research assistant. Author and film critic Neal Gabler is an advisor for the exhibition.

“The American film industry began developing amid an influx of immigration to the United States by Jewish émigré s escaping European pogroms and poverty,” said Jaffe. “Most of Hollywood’s founders were among this wave of Jewish immigrants and recognized that the infant movie business presented an opportunity to raise their marginalized status in an industry that didn’t enforce the same antisemitic barriers as many other professions. Hollywoodland also posits the question: how and why did Los Angeles bloom into a world-renowned cinema capital? The goal of our exhibition is to show the inextricable dovetailing of these histories.”

“We are so proud to bring this foundational story of American filmmaking to the museum as a permanent exhibition,” said Academy Museum director and president, Jacqueline Stewart. “The stories told in Hollywoodland bring the intertwined histories of Los Angeles and the Hollywood studio system to life and resonate with stories of immigrants from around the world.”

The exhibition’s opening day will feature two public programs:

May 19, 2024

Book Signing with Neal Gabler of An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood
4:30–5:30pm, Ted Mann Theater Lobby

Curator ConversationHollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital
Neal Gabler in conversation with Dara Jaffe, moderated by Jacqueline Stewart
6pm, Ted Mann Theater

Located in the museum’s LAIKA Gallery, Hollywoodland is an immersive exhibition chronicling the studio system’s evolution during the early 20th century. It details how the American movie industry—built predominately by Jewish immigrants—transformed Los Angeles into the mythological concept of “Hollywood” that prevails today, as well as the complex legacy that the studio system leaves behind. The exhibition is elaborated in three distinct parts: Studio Origins, an exploration of the founding of Hollywood’s original eight “major” film studios (often referred to as “the majors”) and their respective studio heads; Los Angeles: From Film Frontier to Industry Town, 1902–1929, an immersive projection experience where visitors trace the evolving landscape of Los Angeles alongside the advancement of the movie industry; and From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood, a short form documentary, narrated by TCM host and author Ben Mankiewicz, that illustrates the experiences of the Jewish immigrants and first-generation Jewish Americans who were primarily responsible for building the Hollywood studio system. The exhibition is designed for visitors to enter and exit through the same door so that they can experience these three sections in any order.

Studio Origins explores the establishment of the studio system and “the majors”—Universal, Fox (later Twentieth Century-Fox), Paramount, United Artists, Warner Bros., Columbia, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and RKO—and the studio heads that shaped them. Visitors will learn about each studio’s origin story through dedicated multimedia displays highlighting significant milestones, movies, filmmakers, locations, and gain a deeper understanding of how the studio system transformed the American film industry.

  • Los Angeles: From Film Frontier to Industry Town, 1902–1929 illustrates how the landscape of Los Angeles developed alongside the newly established and quickly expanding film industry, redefining the city itself. Consisting of an animated tabletop map of Los Angeles and choregraphed projection screen, this section of the exhibition features a timeline structured around a series of chronologically revealed locations relevant to the city’s early film industry, such as filming locations, studio locations, and cultural landmarks. It will also address lesser-known stories of independent producers active in early 1900s Los Angeles. While 1902–1929 is the focused timeline, the experience will quickly “rewind” and “fast-forward” in and out of the present day to connect and ground visitors in a current, more familiar version of Los Angeles. The map encourages visitors to further explore this history through the Academy Museum’s digital Hollywood Past and Present experience.  
  • From the Shtetl to the Studio: The Jewish Story of Hollywood is an original short-form documentary that delves into the nuances of Hollywood’s Jewish history, exploring how the shared backgrounds of the industry founders weave together a complex immigrant story characterized by both oppression and innovation. Narrated by Ben Mankiewicz, the documentary features archival imagery and film clips, illustrating the larger global context at the turn of the 20th century as well as personal narratives of the predominantly Jewish founders of the Hollywood studio system. The film examines how antisemitism shaped the founders’ trajectories throughout their careers and how their projected vision of an immigrant’s American Dream came to define America itself on movie screens around the world. 

Exhibition Credit : Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital is made possible by generous gifts from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Margo and Irwin Winkler, A. Scott Berg and Kevin McCormick, Jeffrey Berg and Denny Luria, the Jules Brenner Trust, Bronni Stein Connolly, Dorchester Collection, William Fox, Jr. Foundation, Adam and Abbe Aron, the Ronald L. Blanc Family, Barbara Roisman Cooper and Martin M. Cooper, the Mark Gordon Family, Hawk and Molly Koch and Family, Peter, Melissa, and Emma Koss, Gail and Warren Lieberfarb in Memory of Ted Ashley, and Elaine Mae Woo. Additional support provided by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture and David Berg Foundation. Academy Museum Digital Engagement Platform sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. 

About the Academy Museum
The Academy Museum is the largest museum in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking. The museum advances the understanding, celebration, and preservation of cinema through inclusive and accessible exhibitions, screenings, programs, initiatives, and collections. Designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum's campus contains the restored and revitalized historic Saban Building—formerly known as the May Company building (1939)—and a soaring spherical addition. Together, these buildings contain 50,000 square feet of exhibition spaces, two state-of-the-art theaters, the Shirley Temple Education Studio, and beautiful public spaces that are free and open to the public. These include: The Walt Disney Company Piazza and the Sidney Poitier Grand Lobby, which houses the Spielberg Family Gallery, Academy Museum Store, and Fanny’s restaurant and café. The Academy Museum exhibition galleries and store are open six days a week from 10am to 6pm and are closed on Tuesdays and Christmas Day.