Deadline’s Pete Hammond hit all the big points from today’s live-and-video membership meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—Oscar show revamp, producers hired, revenue diversifying, inclusion program full steam ahead. President Janet Yang and Chief Executive Bill Kramer are promising much, and already beginning to make good on the promises, not least by holding the first of what are promised to be annual meetings open to the Academy’s 10,000-plus members.
It was like a much-needed airing-out of the Academy closets—and as dust poofed up from the nooks and crannies, lots of small details made Saturday’s meeting an event worth monitoring.
For starters, the audience laughed out loud, according to my best report, when Kramer acknowledged that members haven’t actually liked the Oscar show lately. It was something the administration definitively learned from a member survey—not the first, but the only one in a long time from which candid, negative feedback was publicly shared.
For the film Academy, this in itself is a revolution, the kind of transparency that has gotten lip service in the past, but has rarely if ever materialized.
Supposedly, there’s much more to come. Early in the meeting, the Kramer/Yang team promised to post on their member site a recap of doings at each and every meeting of the Board of Governors. To date, those meetings have been shielded from view, and protected by a clause in the bylaws that forbids any governor to discuss the board’s business outside the room. (It happens, but not much.)
Later on Saturday, during a question-and-answer session, one Academy member went so far as to suggest that board meetings should be streamed, making governors accountable to those who elected them. Even for the current, reform-minded leadership, that’s probably a bridge too far. But the proposal got applause—the meeting, mirabile dictu, actually functioned as an open forum!
As they dusted and swept, Kramer and Yang churned up tidbits that will surely morph into stories in the months ahead. There was something about making the Red Carpet more like New York’s annual Met Gala—indeed, they’ve already hired creative consultants Lisa Love and Raúl Àvila, who help engineer the Met Gala. What that means for the Oscars is hard to know, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them mimic the Met with a yearly (and presumably cinematic) costume theme.
When Kramer briefly mentioned future museum bond payments, expiring Oscar show contracts, and reducing the awards-dependent share of operating revenue to 75 percent from about 95 percent in the past, he was teasing matters that will be in the headlines at future meetings. The show’s international television contract with Disney is up in 2024. The ABC domestic contract expires four years after that. Insiders have been quietly bracing for a future in which, absent a return of the mass audience, the current annual domestic television payment of around $110 million could drop by a third or more.
That’s why they’re hiring a brand manager, and staffing an office of revenue and business development—cleaning house, patching up, remodeling, as it were. And actually discussing it with the members, which, in Academy terms, is extraordinary.