Smithsonian Says “Hooray for Hollywood”

The Smithsonian Institution this week announced an agreement with 20th Century Fox to allow the use of its name and facilities for the filming of “Night at the Museum II: Escape from the Smithsonian.” The movie is the sequel to the 2006 film “Night at the Museum” starring Ben Stiller that earned over $250 million at the box office in the U.S., and over $500 million worldwide. This is the first time in its 162-year history that the Smithsonian Institution has allowed its name to be used in the title of a movie produced for theatrical distribution.

According to an official at SI, under the deal the Smithsonian will be receiving $200,000 from Fox for the use of their facilities for filming and a $550,000 licensing fee. The Smithsonian will also receive a percentage of the profits based on a graduated scale depending on how well the film does at the box office and 7½% of the merchandising income from products associated with the film that use the Smithsonian name. Smithsonian also received the right to approve the script. The deal was not subject to the Smithsonian’s contractual relationship with Showtime that involves only television programming and not feature films.

In a memo to Smithsonian staff, Richard Kurin, Acting Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture explained why the Smithsonian had decided to allow the use of its name. “The popularity of the first movie convinced us that this is an innovative way to capture the imagination and curiosity of a young audience. The film positively portrays museums and historical artifacts and will shine the bright lights of Hollywood on the Institution, focus attention on our collection and bring to life heroes such as Amelia Earhart and the Wright Brothers.”

According to Kurin, the original film, which was shot at the Museum of Natural History in New York, resulted in increased attendance and interest in the museum’s collections. He noted that the Smithsonian anticipates a similar reaction following the release of the sequel in May 2009.