The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced tonight that its Board of Governors has elected Tom Sherak the new president of the organization. He succeeds Sid Ganis who served out the maximum four one-year alloted terms.
Additionally, Tom Hanks (yes that Tom Hanks) was elected “first” vice president and longtime Hollywood producer Kathleen Kennedy and Phil Robinson were elected to the other vice president slots. Hawk Koch was elected treasurer and Pixar and Disney Animations studios head John Lasseter was made secretary (good lord, where does the man find the time?).
Ganis who will stay on in the title of “immediate past president” will remain on the board to guide a smooth transition. The former president of production at Paramount and movie producer (“Big Daddy”), Ganis served over one of the more tumultuous times in Academy history. In his first year, the organization had to deal with the controversy of “Crash” beating “Brokeback Mountain,” there was the disastrous 80th Academy Awards whose record-low ratings were mostly due to the writer’s strike scuttling awards season (which effectively cancelled the Golden Globes) and the increasing domination of non-studio films in the top categories which may have caused the surprising omission of “The Dark Knight” in the Best Picture category this year. Ganis, however, must be credited for taking chances and trying to shake up the stodgy old Academy.
In 2005, he brought in Jon Stewart to host the show which broke the increasingly stale Billy Crystal/Whoopi Goldberg/Steve Martin reign in order to try and make the big night appeal to younger audiences. Stewart hosted twice — interrupted by a one-time appearance by Ellen DeGeneres — and Ganis further evolved the show by bringing Bill Condon and Laurence Mark to reshape it in 2008 for the 2009 show. Their work included the popular selection of Hugh Jackman as host and some (possible) new traditions such as having multiple former winners giving away the acting awards and a dramatic new seating arrangement (yep, they saved those seats). Along with the AMPAS board, Ganis also encouraged the Academy to create a younger and more diverse membership. The results of this effort are easily seen in this year’s recently announced new members. It will take quite awhile to balance out the primarily over 50 caucasian membership, but big strides were taken during his tenure.
Historically, Ganis biggest contribution occurred earlier this year when he encouraged the organization to expand the Best Picture nominees from five to 10 selections. This was a dramatic move that has left just as many people in the industry wary as excited. The goal is to allow more audience-friendly favorites such as the “Dark Knight” to get recognized and avoid embarrassing omissions. If it works it could turn around dwindling ratings and increase (gasp!) male viewership.
Stepping in during this new era is Sherak, currently a consultant for Marvel Studios but a studio executive with a long history at 20th Century Fox and the now defunct Revolution Studios (not his best work). Still, he’s been an advocate for change pushing for the ten nominees and his marketing background “should” help make the organization more friendly to the press (we can dream, can’t we?).
As for Hanks, don’t expect the two-time Oscar winner to be reaching for a third trophy any time soon. This is one position in which campaigning would be a big “no-no.” Although a future AMPAS presidency isn’t out of the question…