Sabans give $50 million to Hollywood film museum
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Sabans give $50 million to Hollywood film museum

Main building of LA institution to be named for Israeli-American couple, who initially balked before hearing about educational potential

Cheryl Saban and Haim Saban attend the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures press briefing and site tour at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images/AFP)
Cheryl Saban and Haim Saban attend the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures press briefing and site tour at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 27, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images/AFP)

LOS ANGELES — The film academy is naming its main museum building in honor of Cheryl and Haim Saban, who have donated $50 million to the project.

The historic May Company building on Wilshire Boulevard’s Miracle Mile will now be known as the Saban Building, officials from the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said Wednesday.

Walt Disney Company chief Bob Iger, who is leading the museum’s fundraising campaign, called the Sabans’ donation “magnificent and transformative,” adding that it brings the project within $100 million of its $388 million goal.

Israeli-American Haim Saban is the founder and chairman of Saban Capital Group, a private investment firm specializing in entertainment and media. The Sabans are active philanthropists, with a research wing at Children’s Hospital and a theater in Beverly Hills, California, bearing their name.

Iger and the Sabans were among the dignitaries appearing Wednesday at a press preview of the museum’s construction site. They were joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer, who was tapped to head the museum’s board of directors, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, who serves as chair of the Academy Museum Committee.

Rich Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, stands at the construction site of their new museum under construction, at a media tour, Wednesday, September 27, 2017, in Los Angeles.(AP Photo/Sandy M. Cohen)

“We’re all kind of incredulous that this could be a company town and we don’t have a motion picture museum,” Kennedy said. “We should have the world’s most pre-eminent motion picture museum, and now we have the opportunity to have that.”

Set to open in 2019, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will celebrate the history and art of film. The 300,000-square-foot facility will house two movie theaters and four floors of exhibition space, along with a massive outdoor piazza and rooftop terrace that offers views of the Hollywood sign. The museum will feature artifacts from the film academy’s vast archives, temporary and permanent exhibits, screenings and lectures, and an “Oscars Experience” that allows visitors to walk a red carpet, accept an Oscar and thank the academy.

Saban reportedly resisted an initial approach by Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos to donate to the project.

“I said to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got sick kids, kids who need education — send them our way. Battered women, we’re there. But a museum is not in our sweet spot, so we’re not going to do anything there,’ ” he told The Los Angeles Times in an interview on Tuesday.

Haim Saban attending the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 7, 2016. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images via JTA)

The couple changed their minds after hearing about the museum’s educational angle and tourist potential, the Times said.

Cheryl Saban said the couple became intrigued after hearing how the museum would preserve and teach about the art and craft of movie making and storytelling.

“We owe all our livelihood to the entertainment industry,” she added. “Our whole family lives and works in this town, and the entertainment industry is what we’re about.”

Architect Renzo Piano designed the new complex, comprising the restoration of the former May Company building and a newly built dome-like structure that will house a 1,000-seat theater and outdoor terrace.

Garcetti said the city “neglected this industry for too long,” and the new museum is a celebration of its history and contributors.

Rich Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, stands at the construction site of their new museum under construction, at a media tour, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP/Sandy M. Cohen)

“When young people or tourists from around the world step off a plane of a school bus and walk into the bones of this old building reborn and this new building imagined,” he said, “…We will know that we are telling our own human stories and connecting a new generation of dreamers to the idea that they, too, can give voice to their fears and their hopes and their aspirations and to the very best of humanity.”

Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl are to donate $50 million to the Motion Picture Academy’s long-planned film museum, the  reported.

It is the biggest donation so far and means that the capital campaign is now three quarters of the way towards its $388 million goal.

The museum, beset by numerous delays, is due to open in 2019 and one of its buildings — on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue — will be named for the Sabans, the report said.

The Sabans are a frequent contributor to a wide array of causes, including many based in Israel, where Haim Saban spent much of his childhood.

Cheryl Saban (left), Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman (center) and former Member of Knesset Shachiv Shanan (center, right) watch as Friends of the Israel Defense Forces National Board Member Haim Saban (center, left) breaks ground at the site of the new FIDF Druze Soldiers Heritage Center, July 2017 (Scally photography).

In July, the couple — estimated by Forbes to be worth $3 billion — attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Israel’s northern Galilee for a Druze Soldiers Heritage Center and memorial that they are funding in the town of Kisra-Sumei through Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

In 2015, the Sabans gave a significant gift to the television academy, which dedicated its media center in their names.

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