Pete Hammond

Speculation has been swirling this Easter holiday weekend in the media and among Academy types just exactly what the Save The Date for the “special event”  the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences just sent out to their members (in an email from President Hawk Koch and CEO Dawn Hudson) actually means. In a highly unusual move for the Acad the organization is holding a general membership meeting for its approximately 6000 members on May 4. The bi-coastal event taking place simultaneously in L.A., NY and San Francisco at 10AM (PT) and 1PM (ET) is titled “The Future Of Our Academy” and will include questions and conversation among those attending  either in L.A. or likely via satellite hookups in the other two cities from what I understand. The actual specifics are being worked out and will be detailed later but clearly the Academy wanted to get this on the out there now for planning purposes. Officially the Acad is mum on any of this except to acknowledge it is happening.

Since the Academy is prominently using the word “future” in promoting this fairly unprecedented event to its elite membership we can probably assume it will not be a post-mortem on the recent – and controversial - Oscar show hosted by Seth MacFarlane which drew strong ratings but a highly mixed response inside and out of the Academy. One member who showed me his “save the date” on his iphone yesterday described his reaction to the show as “violently” hating it, but many others I have talked to in the past month seemed to be much more positive about it  and surprised at the sharp response to it from the naysayers. Nevertheless even though the Academy isn’t commenting officially yet,  industry insiders with knowledge of the May 4th event  tell me  that it is not in any way a reaction to the Oscar show but something that has been planned for a very long time. In fact it falls right in line with the agenda  Hudson has been promoting all along, and that has included several “branch mixers” in the past year encouraging more social engagement among members. It clearly seems to be a larger part of her strategy in encouraging the rank and file to share ideas, and for Koch represents another innovative perk he can point to in his limited one year term as Academy President. Think of this as a “mixer” on a much larger scale. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is big on this concept as well and, while not throwing massive membership meetings , in fact will be hosting their “Spring Mixer” for a sold out group of 600 members this week at the Montage in Beverly Hills.

Exactly what the Motion Picture Academy’s presentation will be is still a work-in-progress I am told as details are just beginning to be worked out,  but clearly it can’t be anything but a positive move for the normally tight-lipped organization, that is unless in the unlikely event the members rise  up en-masse and start reading the riot act to their leadership. I’m betting the still hot- button issue of moving from five to ten Best Picture nominees will be part of the “conversation” but that’s generally territory for the more closeted Board Of Governors to take up. But who knows? And by  doing this on a Saturday morning the Academy also hopes to get more real industry players to participate as well instead of just the older members who have more time on their hands for Academy activities. We’ll see who shows but opening the lines of communication is a promising  move if you are an Academy member.

At the very least it ought to be a great networking opportunity and the place to be a fly on the wall May 4th.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.