New AMPAS president to rethink old habits

Newly elected AMPAS president Tom Sherak on Wednesday expressed high-energy enthusiasm for his new job and hinted that changes are on the agenda.

Sherak chaired the two panels that accounted for some of the org’s most radical moves in years: The expansion of the best pic category to 10 nominees, and the shifting of the governors awards to a nontelevised event in November.

His goal with the next Oscarcast is to continue rethinking old habits “and make the Academy Awards again a show that you want to watch, to bring changes that would make a viewer think, ‘Hmm, it could be interesting this year.’ ”

A key step is to hire a producer to continue the innovations that Laurence Mark and Bill Condon brought this year. (Due to their other work commitments, the two have said they won’t be available to repeat their duties next year.)

Sherak also praised the duo for introducing the idea of 10 pics. His committee members, and eventually the entire board, proved receptive. Amid slipping ratings and a format that had become rigid, he said, “The media challenged us, ‘Do something!’ Some people think we (in the Academy) don’t listen. That’s absolutely not true. We listen. I hope it’ll be great, but if it doesn’t work, we’ll figure out something else to do. The days of doing nothing are over. You have to be positive.”

As for the governors evening, three or four awards — honorary Oscars, Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Thalberg honors, etc. — will be presented in November. The goal is to make the evening, along with the Oscars, “one of the most special nights of the year — to honor people who deserve it and to give them the time to be honored properly.”

But, he reminded Daily Variety, AMPAS is about more than awards. The exec, who serves as a consultant at Marvel, is entering his seventh year on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences board of governors, and “It took me a few years to understand what this organization does. Don’t forget, the Academy is a philanthropic organization to benefit the industry, the people in it, to give grants to schools, to promote the motion picture business, and we have the Pickford Center, the Academy library, all sorts of things.”

Sherak confirmed that the Acad’s ambitious plans for a museum are on hold, with no date targeted for resumption until the economy recovers.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, others elected were Tom Hanks, first VP; Kathleen Kennedy and Phil Robinson, veepees; Hawk Koch, treasurer; and John Lasseter, secretary.

The race was wide open because Sid Ganis, president for the past four years, was ineligible for re-election under Academy rules. Ganis now assumes the title of immediate past president — meaning he serves on the exec committee and remains a resource for the org.

Traditionally, AMPAS has announced the president on the morning following the board meet. However, in the age of Twitter, execs decided it made more sense to send out the release Tuesday night.

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