As new film academy CEO, Bill Kramer takes responsibility for the Oscars

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LOS ANGELES, CA-MARCH 4, 2020: Bill Kramer, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures director, is photographed inside the 1000 seat David Geffen Theater, located at the museum. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be opening its doors on December 14, 2020.(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Incoming film academy Chief Executive Bill Kramer photographed in 2020 inside the David Geffen Theater at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Bill Kramer would become the organization’s new CEO chief executive after the departure of Dawn Hudson, who has led the academy through 11 transformative and at times tumultuous years.

Kramer, who has served as director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures since 2019, will assume his new role July 18. Hudson, who announced in October that she would be exiting her post, will remain with the academy as an advisor during the transition. The organization is expected to name a new museum director soon.

As chief executive, Kramer will be charged with leading the organization’s more than 10,000 members and overseeing the Oscars as well as the institution’s archival collections, the Academy Museum and the group’s education and emerging talent initiatives.

“It is the great honor of my career to take on the role as CEO of the Academy,” Kramer said in a statement. “I deeply believe in the power and artistry of cinema. I so look forward to galvanizing the unparalleled assets of the Academy — the Oscars, our global community of more than 10,000 Academy members, and our museum, library, and archive — to promote and elevate the arts and sciences of the movies and inspire the next generation of filmmakers.”

In a statement, Academy President David Rubin credited Kramer’s stewardship of the museum, which opened in September after years of protracted delays and budget overruns, with giving the academy’s 54-member board of governors confidence in his ability to lead the sometimes fractious organization as it faces significant challenges ahead.

“Bill Kramer has been a transformational leader in establishing the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures as a beacon for movie lovers and a manifestation of everything the Academy represents and celebrates,” Rubin said. “His vision for the Academy’s future is likewise bold and inspiring, and our governors have agreed he is the ideal choice to lead at this pivotal moment for the organization. We believe Bill has the ability to bring together all corners of the motion picture community, and we're thrilled to have him in this role to elevate the organization and unite our global membership.”

Chief among the challenges Kramer will inherit is attempting to safeguard the future of the Academy Awards, which has been plagued for years by declining ratings and existential anxieties over the movies themselves.

This year’s telecast,  which was marred by ugly controversy after Will Smith struck Chris Rock onstage before going on to win the lead actor award,  drew 16.6 million viewers, up 60% from the previous year’s all-time low but still the second-lowest viewership ever and far below the more than 40 million viewers the show brought in just eight years ago.

Deepening a sense of crisis around the awards, an effort to shake up the nearly century-old show’s format by awarding eight technical and short film categories in the hour before the live show began sparked weeks of bitter protest within the academy, including from some of the industry’s most prominent filmmakers, such as Steven Spielberg, Jane Campion and James Cameron.

To the academy, Kramer represents a trusted and battle-tested insider who, in his role as museum director, has proved himself adept at bringing disparate viewpoints together —  a key trait for someone leading a group as filled with strong and sometimes discordant voices as the academy.

Taking over as director after years of delays, cost overruns and in-fighting, Kramer oversaw completion of the museum’s $388-million fundraising campaign and established an ongoing $40-million annual operating revenue program that includes membership and ticket sales as well as an annual gala and other events. According to the academy, under Kramer’s leadership, the museum has sold more than 550,000 tickets in its first nine months, with its retail store generating sales of more than $5.5 million.

In his statement, Rubin added a note of appreciation for Hudson’s tenure, which saw the academy dramatically remake its historically white male-dominated membership following the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, more than doubling the number of women and people of color in the organization’s ranks.

“She initiated unprecedented efforts to create more space for diverse voices, both within the membership and our industry,” Rubin said. “She was tireless in shepherding our long-awaited museum to its opening and has fortified the Academy’s financial stability, allowing us to develop programs and provide mentoring for those in front of and behind the camera. Our gratitude for her accomplishments and guidance is beyond measure.”

In her own statement, Hudson expressed appreciation for the opportunity to lead the organization and her confidence in Kramer as her successor. “I’ve worked with Bill for close to a decade, and no executive is more innovative, more connected to artists, or more passionate about the opportunities that lie ahead than he is,” Hudson said. “The Academy and the Academy Museum are in the best of hands.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.