The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has named Christine Simmons to chief operating officer. The current president and COO of the Los Angeles Sparks will assume her new position in January, reporting directly to AMPAS CEO Dawn Hudson.
Simmons will take on the day-to-day management of the Academy’s internal organization and infrastructure, with focus on the Academy Foundation, comprised of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy Film Archive, its educational programs, and the Science and Technology Council. She will also participate in collaborative efforts to pursue the Academy mission “to recognize and uphold excellence in the motion picture arts and sciences, inspire imagination, and connect the world through the medium of motion pictures,” per the Academy.
Or, to put it another way: Simmons is a grown-up professional who is being hired to whip the always-idiosyncratic Academy into shape. The role has been vacant since 2013, when Academy vet Ric Robertson resigned after 2 1/2 years in the job.
“There has been—and continues to be—a sea change in our film community, our Academy, and in the culture at large,” stated Hudson. “Christine brings both nonprofit and corporate management expertise, an ability to implement creative solutions, and a love of film to our Academy. It’s the perfect moment for an innovative thinker.”
This appointment comes at a turbulent time when Hudson, the Academy’s sprawling 54-member Board of Directors (many of whom can barely sit through an entire board meeting, even when they beam in from out of town), and board-elected AMPAS president John Bailey are struggling to deal with the daunting demands of the 2019 launch of the $500 million Academy Museum, which has distracted them from their other priority: choosing the right person to host the 2019 Oscars on February 24.
The Board convened last Tuesday, but so far no new host has been named to replace Kevin Hart — whom the Academy hired to lure his millions of fans and followers to watch the Oscarcast, and boost its sliding ratings — after he withdrew following a media uproar over past homophobic jokes and controversial tweets. Oscar producer Donna Gigliotti (“Shakespeare in Love”) is widely expected to announce a no-host Oscar show solution.
The LA Sparks, a founding team of the WNBA, are three-time League champions and one of the League’s most successful franchise business operations. Prior to becoming President and COO, Simmons served as Executive Vice President of Magic Johnson Enterprises, where she led the day-to-day operations of the Sparks throughout the team’s first season. Before working at MJE, she held senior positions managing and expanding supplier diversity at both Disney and NBC/Universal Studios.
Simmons serves on the advisory councils for Women in Sports and Events and Next Play Capital. She previously served as Board President of the UCLA Alumni Association and is a member of the UCLA Foundation’s Board of Directors and the UC Regents. In October 2018, Ebony magazine included her in its “Power 100” list of inspiring African Americans.