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New Academy CEO Bill Kramer Is Already Reshaping the Organization, Including a Stellar Successor

The new Academy CEO is elevating programming czar Jacqueline Stewart to replace him as director of the Academy Museum.

TCM host Jacqueline Stewart photographed on the TCM set on Tuesday & Wednesday, August 20-21, 2019 in Atlanta, Ga.  Photo by John Nowak

Jacqueline Stewart

John Nowak

Exiting Academy Museum director Bill Kramer is not wasting any time. He sought to take the reins of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from departing CEO Dawn Hudson, and landed the gig with unanimous support from the Board of Governors. He was supposed to start in his new role on July 18, but took over July 1 to get started on Oscar-planning season. First order of business: he dismissed Hudson’s Chief Operating Officer Christine Simmons.

And Wednesday the Board of Trustees of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced the expected appointment of Jacqueline Stewart, the museum’s Chief Artistic and Programming officer, to replace Kramer as Director and President of the museum. Kramer brought in the cinema scholar, curator, public educator, and TCM host in 2020. She’ll take over the role of Academy Museum Director and President on July 18 to guide the future course of the organization, which Kramer successfully launched on September 30, 2021 after a long and arduous journey through construction delays and a pandemic.

Kramer emerged as a hero during the museum’s fraught run-up to opening, proving to be a decisive leader and efficient administrator. The museum has become a tourist attraction and sold more than 550,000 tickets in its first nine months of operation. Under Kramer’s direction, the museum developed five floors of exhibitions celebrating the arts and sciences of moviemaking.

Kramer, whose background is in fine arts and museum curation, is now overseeing the entire Academy organization: global membership, the Oscars, education and emerging talent initiatives, and the Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive — plus the Academy Museum under Stewart’s leadership. “I am thrilled that we will continue to collaborate in our two new roles,” stated Kramer in an official statement. “I know the museum will thrive thanks to her rare combination of expertise, creativity, and proven leadership.”

The Museums Board of Trustees confirmed Kramer’s choice. “The Board warmly and unanimously agrees that Jacqueline Stewart is the ideal choice to lead the Academy Museum into the future,” stated Ted Sarandos, Chair of the Academy Museum’s Board of Trustees and Co-CEO of Netflix. “A strong and inspiring partner to Bill Kramer throughout the period leading up to our opening, she gave indispensable direction to the curatorial program that has been so widely admired. Her assumption of the role of Director and President is a testament to both the intellectual heft of the Academy Museum and its institutional strength.”

Ted Sarandos, Jacqueline Stewart, Bill Kramer, Dawn Hudson, Eric Garcetti, David Rubin,Effie T. Brown, Nithya Raman, Colleen Bell, Jimi Castillo and Virginia Carmelo attend the dedication ceremony and the official ribbon cutting for the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 30, 2021 in Los Angeles. (Ringo Chiu via AP)

Ted Sarandos, Jacqueline Stewart, Bill Kramer, Dawn Hudson, Eric Garcetti, David Rubin, Effie T. Brown, Nithya Raman, Colleen Bell, Jimi Castillo,, and Virginia Carmelo at the official ribbon cutting for the opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 30, 2021 in Los Angeles

Ringo Chiu via AP

Stewart will continue to pursue the Academy Museum’s mission “to give Los Angeles and the world an unprecedented institution for understanding and appreciating the history and culture of cinema, in all its artistic glory and all its power to influence and reflect society,” she said. “I feel deeply honored to have been chosen for this new role and look forward to working with our Board of Trustees, our COO and General Counsel Brendan Connell Jr., our wonderfully talented staff, and with Bill Kramer and the Academy.”

Kramer wooed the Chicago film scholar and TCM “Silent Sunday Nights” host to come to the museum. Many top film programmers and executives sought the plum curatorial job, which saw Stewart lead strategy, planning, and programming for all Academy Museum exhibitions, screenings, symposia, publications, workshops, and K-12 programs.

Already, Kramer is conducting extensive meetings around Hollywood with Academy members and others. He is expected to thoroughly evaluate the Academy staff, which has more than doubled under Hudson’s 11-year tenure with the addition of the museum staff and expanding membership rolls. Hudson hired Simmons in late 2018; she had been President and COO of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.

When Stewart joined the Museum in January 2021, she took a leave from teaching American film history at the University of Chicago Department of Cinema and Media Studies (where she also ran the Arts + Public Life initiative) to move to Los Angeles. Stewart is not only respected in the classic film community, but is a charismatic personality and well-known film expert who has become the museum’s public face. She bridges the worlds of academic scholarship, archive preservation, and presentation, which are at the heart of any successful film museum. Continuing to bring people in is key.

Honored in 2021 as a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, she was a 2019 senior fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2018. Stewart has held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and Northwestern University. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Chicago and her BA in English from Stanford University.

The author of “Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity, a study of African Americans and silent cinema” is also the co-editor of “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” which explored the first generation of film-school-trained Black filmmakers out of UCLA, including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, and Haile Gerima. Stewart has written for Critical Inquiry, Film Quarterly, Film History, and The Moving Image. She has two upcoming books on directors William Greaves and Spencer Williams. Stewart also co-curated Kino Lorber’s “Pioneers of African American Cinema.”

A passionate film archivist and advocate for film preservation, she is chair of the National Film Preservation Board, where she led the drafting of reports on diversity, equity, and inclusion on the National Film Registry and in the film archival profession, and has also served on the Boards of Chicago Film Archives, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and the Association of Moving Image Archivists.

Inevitably, the Academy Museum launch did hit a few speed bumps, including backlash about minimal Jewish and Black representation, which the Museum addressed by mounting the new permanent exhibition “Hollywoodland,” that will focus on the predominantly Jewish founders of the early Hollywood studio system and how their personal narratives shaped the movies their studios produced, set for late Spring 2023. Next up is the August launch of an exhibition that is close to Stewart’s heart: “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898–1971,” which explores the visual culture of Black cinema.

And Kramer and Stewart are now contending with a unionizing campaign from the Academy Museum employees. The Academy Museum Workers United, which is trying to unionize some 200 workers, postponed a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, as Deadline reported that more productive talks got underway.

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