Oscars Academy Awards

New prexy, ceremony date among pending decisions

There might be some rest for the weary at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences after Sunday’s Oscars, but not much.

The coming off-season for AMPAS will be a busy one.

Among other things, the Academy will be looking for a new president — again. Because he has reached the limit of nine consecutive years on the AMPAS Board of Governors, Hawk Koch can only complete this single, yearlong term as prexy before he must step aside (though he’ll be eligible to return in future years after a hiatus).

The moment AMPAS governors stop talking about this year’s Oscars, they’ll start talking about potential successors to Koch. Among possible candidates for the increasingly time-consuming job will be first VP Cheryl Boone Isaacs and veep Kathleen Kennedy, each of whom could become the Academy’s first female president in 30 years (since Fay Kanin).

That next president will face a major issue concerning the timing of the next Oscars. Because of the Feb. 2 Super Bowl and the 2014 Winter Olympics from Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia, every Sunday in February is occupied by a globally-watched sporting event.

To avoid diluting their audience, the Oscars will either need to move to a different night of the week, delay the ceremony until March (bucking the Academy’s ongoing desire to hand out its awards earlier and earlier) or push into January.

A wait until March might seem like an eternity in this impatient era. On the other hand, placing the Oscars on Jan. 26 (a date the Grammys might also be fighting for) would further condense a film awards season that many already think is too tight, at least in the period leading up to the nominations. Instead of beginning post-nom voting four weeks after the nominations, as was the case this year, that waiting period could conceivably be cut in half. It figures to be a provocative debate between competing interests.

In addition to settling on a date and then filling the producer, director and host roles for next year’s Oscars, numerous other questions will be on the Academy’s table.

For one, is there a consensus to keep the best picture category open to more than five nominees — much less any thought (in the wake of this year’s dissonance between the picture and director noms) to expanding the directing race to match picture in quantity?

Will the new online voting system be simplified, or will the Academy bank on the experience gained from the first year of growing pains and stay the course?

And what tinkering might happen with rules of the various branches? Expect debate about the documentary category, a year after the Academy successfully enabled the entire doc branch to weigh in on submissions for the shortlist, and a renewed push to develop criteria to reduce the number of eligible submissions after the total reached a record 130 in 2012 — a 30% increase in a two-year span.

Similarly, there is always some grumbling in the foreign-language category and how it limits countries to one submission of their own choosing (thus leaving out in the cold such 2012 films as “Rust and Bone,” because France had an alternative in “The Intouchables,” and “A Cube of Sugar,” because Iran boycotted this year’s Oscars). At the same time, given that a record 71 films made the foreign-language shortlist in 2012, the idea of expanding the field won’t necessarily be palatable.

While all this is going on, the Academy will push forward on its many non-awards endeavors, most notably fundraising for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, scheduled to open in 2016.

One issue from last year that isn’t on the table is the home of the Oscars. In May, the Academy signed a 20-year deal to keep the ceremony at Hollywood and Highland, with Dolby taking over sponsorship of the theater. (The kudos are also committed to airing on ABC through 2020.)

But here’s a last thought before you go gently into that good Oscar night, Academy: Any time you want to change the nominations announcement from 5:30 a.m. to something humane, we’re ready!

Jon Weisman blogs about awards season at weblogs.variety.com/thevote.

Contact Jon Weisman at jon.weisman@variety.com

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