The Hollywood Reporter is breaking news this week (currently the print edition only), about the prospects of an individual or other entity acquiring one of the two surviving Cowardly Lion costumes from The Wizard of Oz, proceeds of which would go toward the funding of James Comisar’s “Museum of Television” project in Phoenix, Arizona.
As explained in prior articles (see #1 and #2), James Comisar is working to transition his Comisar Collection (see www.museumoftv.org) into a public museum in downtown Phoenix, a $35 million, 50,000 sq ft project scheduled for completion in 2016.
Per the Hollwood Reporter article by Andy Lewis:
Memorabilia collector James Comisar is searching for an industry benefactor to help save one of Bert Lahr’s original costumes from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz. Comisar is selling the furry outfit — acquired in 1991 from a salvage dealer who found it covered in dirt and mouse droppings in an abandoned MGM building — to fund a TV history museum in Phoenix.
Experts consider it the more historically important of the two surviving Lion costumes because Lahr wore it in the film’s most memorable scenes. Considering the eye-popping prices paid recently for significant memorabilia — TV’s original Batmobile sold for $4.6 million in January, and a dress Audrey Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady went for $4.55 million in June 2011 — the Lion likely is worth several million dollars. Plus, while several pairs of ruby slippers and Dorothy’s blue dress still exist, none of the Tin Man costumes has survived, and there’s only one ragged Scarecrow costume (it’s in the Smithsonian). Comisar’s concern isn’t getting the highest price: He wants the Cowardly Lion to end up alongside a pair of ruby slippers in the planned Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, and he’s even offering to sell it for a discount. But the Academy, which has raised about $100 million of a projected $250 million budget for the museum, isn’t ready to shell out for acquisitions. So he’s hoping an angel will step up, as when Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel helped buy the slippers and donated them to the Academy. A few foreign buyers have made offers, but Comisar is holding out hope the Lion will be reunited with the slippers for “the magical Hollywood ending it deserves.”
It will be interesting to see if principals in the entertainment industry are willing to step forward to acquire this important motion picture artifact for public display at the upcoming Academy Motion Picture Museum under development by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with the side benefit of also helping to fund the Museum of Television under independent yet concurrent development. Another benefit that such a private purchase – outside of control by auction houses – would eliminate the need to pay 40% +/- in commissions.