This story first appeared in the May 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
David Geffen's $25 million donation ensures that his name will appear on the theater inside the sphere that will dominate the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, scheduled to open in 2017. But for a mere $2.5 million, you still can attach your moniker to the adjacent green room. If that seems steep, consider that naming rights for the Film History Gallery are going for $20 million, while the Founders Room and Rooftop Terrace are a relative bargain at $5 million apiece.
The incentives are part of the drive to meet the Academy's ambitious new fundraising goal of $300 million, more than the $250 million it originally projected would be needed to design and make over the historic May Co. building next door to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Once the museum is open, the Academy will establish a separate operating endowment.) "Because early support for the campaign was so strong," says Bill Kramer, the Academy's managing director of development, a decision was made to increase the size of the main theater. Commitments have put the campaign more than halfway toward its goal, Kramer says.
To jumpstart the push for the rest, the Academy wined-and-dined supporters April 11 at the building that will house the main museum. Disney CEO Robert Iger, who is chairing the campaign, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and president Hawk Koch welcomed 800 guests, who checked out items from the Academy's collection -- Dorothy's ruby slippers, the Maltese Falcon, Sam's piano from Casablanca. Star Trek's George Takei and husband Brad proudly pointed to their names on a list of donors. Renzo Piano, the architect who is designing the project with Zoltan Pali, outlined his plans.
The first, so-called "silent" phase of fundraising has brought gifts from Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg's Family Foundation, Lucasfilm, Academy board members such as Jim Gianopulos (and wife Anne) and John Lasseter (and wife Nancy), plus every major studio and guild.
Now with groundbreaking scheduled for 2014, the second, more aggressive phase of fundraising is beginning. Academy members and L.A. and New York arts patrons should expect more frequent solicitations, especially as Jeffrey Katzenberg's Motion Picture & Television Fund is in the middle of a $350 million capital campaign of its own. If the Academy is nervous about its ability to raise such an unprecedented sum, it isn't letting on. "I don't see fundraising as a zero-sum game," says Kramer. "This is a distinct, cultural project, which has its own set of donors."