Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner will produce the 95th Oscars, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer announced on Saturday morning during an all-member meeting that took place in-person at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and simultaneously via a livestream on the members-only website. The hiring of Weiss and Kirshner, who are veterans of many award shows, is a reflection of the Academy’s understanding that it needs to return to having telecast producers with “live TV expertise” after several disappointing Oscars telecasts, Kramer said.
Kramer, who has been in his position for the past two-and-a-half months, and Academy president Janet Yang, who has been in hers for the past one-and-a-half months, emceed the gathering — only the third of its kind (the others took place on May 4, 2013, and Sept. 28, 2017), authorized by the board of governors in October 2021 — speaking for 39 minutes before taking member questions, some pre-submitted, some not.
Other noteworthy announcements to come out of the meeting: all of the Academy’s 10,669 current members — 34 percent women, 19 percent racial minorities and 23 percent based outside of the U.S. — will now receive recaps after each meeting of the Academy’s board of governors, part of what Kramer described as a commitment to “more transparency with our members”; ticket lottery through which members have been able to attend the Academy’s Governors Awards and Oscars, which was paused during the pandemic, is being brought back; and the Academy said that it is firmly committed, in its discussions with ABC, to “honoring all crafts and disciplines on air” during the Oscars telecast, garnering big applause in the room.
“From our recent member survey, we learned from our Academy members that they did not love the 94th Oscars,” Kramer acknowledged, prompting audible laughter at the memory of a ceremony at which, controversially, eight categories were pre-taped and then incorporated into the live telecast, and at which the eventual best actor winner, Will Smith, slapped a presenter, Chris Rock. “It had a 20 percent positivity rating from Academy members, compared to 61 percent for the 92nd; only 2 percent liked the Fan Favorite; only 17 percent approved of the pre-recorded awards; and fewer Academy members are watching the full show — 67 percent for the 92nd, 59 percent for the 94th.”
Kramer continued, “We need to return the Oscars to a position of power and importance by hiring producing teams with live TV experience who are accountable to the Academy; determining how to best honor all categories; focusing on a love and reverence for film; creating an emotional investment in the nominees; exploring extensions of the show on streaming; solidifying the ongoing theatrical requirement for eligibility; making the red carpet an event on the scale of the Met Gala and Cannes; and continuing to prioritize sustainability, access, inclusion and representation.”
Kramer summarized “our vision for the Academy” with the following priorities: “Diversify revenue and build a sustainable long-term budget; better engage our members; reinvigorate the Oscars; advance the understanding and preservation of cinema; advance inclusion and sustainability initiatives; develop a new generation of diverse filmmaking talent; create clarity and efficiency in the Academy organizational structure; and evolve our brand.”
The former Academy Museum CEO noted that prior to the opening of that popular tourist destination in September 2021, 90 percent of the Academy’s operating revenue was derived from the Oscars, but now the Oscars account for 75 percent, with the Museum bringing in 22 percent and member dues and other income the remaining 3 percent. “We’re absolutely moving in the right direction,” he concluded. The Academy also has $650 million in reserves and endowments, he volunteered, but he acknowledged that it still has to repay bonds used to fund the Museum. And, he said, that increasing the organization’s financial diversification is pivotal, given that “the Academy Awards still brings in a very large percentage of our revenue,” and that the current international distribution deal for the show with Disney International ends in 2024 and the current domestic contract for the show with Disney-ABC ends in 2028.
Yang noted that a recent Academy member survey showed that 90 percent of Oscar voters use the Academy Screening Room, the members-only streaming service, up from 46 percent in the last survey, and that footage of the Q&As that often follow in-person member screenings will henceforth be added to the platform, as well. Kramer floated a possible “expansion” of the service, which some interpreted to mean charging studios for the right to post additional content related to their Oscar hopefuls.
Yang also vowed that in addition to an annual all-member meeting, there will be all-branch meetings; that the Academy intends to ramp back up in-person member screenings in Los Angeles, New York, the Bay Area and London, which were shut down due to the pandemic; to enhance the Academy Members app; to add closed-captioning and Dolby Atmos audio capabilities to the Academy Screening Room; to launch an Android-compatible version of the Academy Screening Room in the fall; to appoint regional Academy ambassadors; to elevate membership affinity groups; and to continue to increase the Academy’s presence at film festivals around the world (she and Kramer just returned from the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film fests, and will soon be off to the fests in London, New York and Copenhagen).
Kramer revealed that Academy member Kenny Gravillis, who has a design agency, is now working with the Academy on literally rebranding itself, and that the organization is also actively working to improve its social media strategies and content; to foster better relations with the press; to capitalize on the upcoming 95th and 100th editions of the Oscars; and to elevate and support first-run theatrical films.
One member of the Academy’s marketing/public relations branch who has often been critical of the organization texted THR late in the presentation: “So far saying all the right things. Substantial improvement over the hagiography of the only other two general meetings held in the last 35 years. I’m drinking the Kramer Kool-Aid.”