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Academy's New Theater Named for VFX Pioneer Dunn

It's fitting that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has named its newest theater, a 286-seat state-of-the-art screening room at the Pickford Center in Hollywood, in honor of optical, vfx pioneer Linwood Dunn.

"Linwood Dunn was a giant in the motion picture field, a gifted artist and scientist who made enormous contributions to our art form throughout most of the 20th century," said Academy president Frank Pierson. "Naming the theater in Lin's honor made eminent sense to the board of governors."

The theater was first used on Dec. 7, to screen two animated features in contention for Academy Awards, followed by an Academy Film Archive screening on Dec. 15 and a public program honoring the films of 1903 on Dec. 17.

A formal dedication of the facility will take place shortly after the February Academy Award ceremonies.

"Lin Dunn was one of the pathfinders of visual effects who created some of the most indelible and astounding images in the history of film, decades before computers were even a possibility," said Bill Taylor, an Academy governor representing the visual effects branch, who proposed the naming of the theater in Dunn's honor. "In the hands of Lin Dunn, simple optical and photographic equipment, applied with great artistry, boldness, ingenuity, imagination and craftsmanship, literally did the impossible."

Though he was involved with the optical effects on such films as KING KONG, FLYING DOWN TO RIO, CITIZEN KANE, BRINGING UP BABY, MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, WEST SIDE STORY and THE EXORCIST, Dunn received his only Oscar nomination in 1966 for the special visual effects on HAWAII.

Dunn received an Oscar in 1980, along with Cecil D. Love and the Acme Tool and Manufacturing Co., "for the concept, engineering and development of the Acme-Dunn Optical Printer for motion picture special effects."

Four years later he was given the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, also an Oscar, which is given to an individual "whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."

Dunn served as a governor of the Academy representing the cinematographers branch for nine years between 1976 and 1992, and then was elected in 1996 to the first group of governors to represent the newly-formed visual effects branch. He died at the age of 94 before completing his three-year term.

The theater fills a long-standing Academy need for a mid-sized venue. At the Academy's headquarters building on Wilshire Blvd., the Samuel Goldwyn Theater seats 1,012 and the Academy Little Theater seats 67. While those two theaters are available for industry rental, the Linwood Dunn Theater will be a workhorse for the Academy and will not be available for rental, according to Academy exec administrator Ric Robertson.

The new screening room was designed to provide reference standard presentation of 16, 35 and 70mm motion picture formats for both image and sound quality, according to past Academy sound branch governor Douglas Greenfield, who headed the Pickford Screening Room subcommittee. He said the design also anticipates digital presentation.

In addition, the theater will provide a venue for lectures, panel discussions, Academy forums on a variety of subjects, and Scientific and Technical Achievement demonstrations and the Academy Film Archive and the Academy's new science and technology council will make frequent use of the facility.

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