Academy Re-Elects Cheryl Boone Isaacs as President

In a move most insiders expected, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences re-elected Cheryl Boone Isaacs as its president on Tuesday.

This marks her second term. Officers, including the president, are elected for one-year stints, with a maximum of four consecutive terms in any one office. Board members are elected for three-year stretches.

In addition, the board members also named Jeffrey Kurland first VP; Leonard Engelman and John Bailey, veeps; Dick Cook, treasurer; and Bill Kroyer, secretary. This is the first officer stints for Bailey and Kroyer. Engelman and Cook were re-elected, and Kurland was veepee last year.

Since her first election on July 30, 2013, Boone Isaacs has generally gotten favorable reaction for keeping the Academy on track during major changes and for working to expand its effectiveness.

While maintaining ongoing goals, including education, preservation and sci-tech advancement — as well as all things Oscar — the Academy is moving ahead on several fronts. These include recent moves to firm up its museum (slated to open in 2017), and digital innovations such as the video series “Academy Originals,” consisting of documentary-style examinations of creativity and film history.

Boone Isaacs has been under a high level of scrutiny because the number of news outlets covering the Academy has increased in a digital world. She was also under the microscope as the organization’s first prexy who is black and only the third woman to hold that post (after Fay Kanin, 1979-83, and Bette Davis, who was prez for two months in 1941.)

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Her most high-profile challenge was handling the January revocation of the Oscar nomination for the song “Alone Yet Not Alone,” only the sixth time that’s happened (and the first such occurrence in 21 years). Less public was her work within the Academy to help create “a more global, diverse membership,” to better reflect the filmmaking world, as she told Variety last year soon after taking office. To further that, she traveled to China and held a series of meetings in London with the Academy’s European contingent. The latter in particular was part of her goal to better engage members outside of L.A. in the organization.

“Diverse membership” was also a factor as the Academy in June invited 271 new members, more than double the usual number, with a hefty portion of invitees representing filmmakers outside the Academy’s demo, which is predominantly male and Caucasian. There has been an outreach to people of different languages, cultures and races. However, Boone Isaacs has always been outspoken against the idea of diversity for its own sake, frequently reminding that the Academy needs to add more voices while maintaining its standards for membership.

The Oscar show is seen by several hundred million people, and when Boone Isaacs appeared at the March 2 telecast, it was a positive statement to the world about Hollywood and the Academy. But presumably the board members did not select her because they wanted to make a statement: Boone Isaacs’ fans say that her advantages are her experience, both within the industry and the Academy, and her demeanor.

In terms of AMPAS experience, she had served first VP of the board and has held every other board officer position before her election as president. She also produced the 2012 Governors Awards.

She honed her diplomatic skills during her decades in marketing. Boone Isaacs was exec VP of worldwide publicity for Paramount Pictures starting in the 1980s and president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema. She currently heads CBI Enterprises, where she has consulted on such films as “The Artist,” “The King’s Speech” and “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”  These roles gave her first-hand contact with various aspects of filmmaking as she learned to deal with the egos and often-conflicting demands of studio execs and filmmakers.

She is generally liked and respected, but no one in the president position ever wins unanimous praise. A few naysayers quietly worked to prevent her re-election, but Tuesday’s vote shows that she clearly has the support of the majority.

The Academy presidency was once ceremonial. But Sid Ganis, Tom Sherak and Hawk Koch assumed greater responsibilities in the role as the world of entertainment changed and the Academy dealt with new demands. “We’re in the second decade of the 21st century, and it’s a whole new environment for entertainment,” Boone Isaacs told Variety last year. “Hollywood has always been at the forefront of a lot of social change. We should remain in the forefront.”


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