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Academy CEO Bill Kramer Is Ready for the Oscars to Move Past the Slap

Kramer is hoping "to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema," he told a group of assembled press this week.

THE OSCARS® – The 94th Oscars® aired live Sunday March 27, from the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood at 8 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. PDT on ABC in more than 200 territories worldwide. (ABC)WILL SMITH

Will Smith at the 2022 Oscars

ABC

The Oscars are ready for a post-Slap future.

In a roundtable conversation with press this week, newly appointed Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences CEO Bill Kramer made it clear that the next edition of the show wouldn’t dwell on Best Actor winner Will Smith slapping presenter Chris Rock on stage earlier this year. “We want to move forward, to have an Oscars that celebrates cinema,” he said, when asked about the incident.

As for what that could entail, Kramer focused on the legacy of the show, which will broadcast its 95th ceremony March 12 on ABC.

“We want to return to a show that has reverence for film and 95 years of the Oscars,” he said. “It’s a moment to really reflect on our membership, all craft areas, our changing industry, [and] our fans. … There are ways to do that, that are entertaining and authentic, and that are tied to our mission to honor excellence in moviemaking. I don’t think that’s mutually exclusive.”

So does that mean the Oscars are bringing back those eight categories — Film Editing, Production Design, Original Score, Makeup and Hairstyling, Sound, and the three short film awards— that were subtracted from this year’s main broadcast? Kramer was diplomatic on that one. “We want to see all disciplines equitably acknowledged on the show,” he said. “That is our goal. There are many ways to do that. And we’re working that through with ABC right now.”

He later clarified. “There’s a core audience who love the Oscars and want to go deep around our craft areas,” he said. “We don’t want to lose that core audience that’s so important to us.”

Kramer was more concrete about the search for a new show producer, though he didn’t clarify any names on his shortlist. “The Oscars are a live television show,” he said. “It’s very important to us that we work with producers who have expertise in that area. … It is our goal that we will engage in multi-year partnerships with producers.”

Harold Mindel

Kramer said producer Bill Condon’s 2009 broadcast, hosted by Hugh Jackman, was a recent high point: “I thought that was an incredibly successful show.” He also cited Donna Gigliotti’s hostless 2019 edition, with a caveat. “We definitely want a host, but I thought that show was efficient and successful,” he said. “A host is very important to us. And we are committed to having a host on the show this year. And we are already looking at some key partners on that.”

Speeding through some of the other lingering questions surrounding the 95th edition, Kramer said “there’s no plan right now” to make the acting categories gender-neutral. As for the potential of “Good Luck to You Leo Grande” being Oscars eligible without a theatrical run, Kramer said that it “was something that the past administration committed to,” but “I believe you will always see a theatrical requirement moving forward.”

Finally, in terms of the reception to the Academy’s new representation and inclusion standards (otherwise known as Aperture 2025), Kramer encouraged the industry to welcome the mandate. “We want to be very clear that we don’t want this to be onerous or punitive,” he said. “We want this to be collaborative. And again, seeing that the best Picture nominees of this past year all qualify gave us great hope that our conversations and partnership with studios and distributors and filmmakers is working, and is not creating a challenge.”

All in all, Kramer’s approach to the Oscars seems to be to cater to the audience that is already passionate about it. “Between now and the show, we really want to take a hard look at how we’re promoting first-run films in an equitable way, on all of our social channels, that creates a great lead into the Oscars,” he said. “We want to create a lot of energy around our members who are working on first-run films, many of whom will be nominees, and then after nominations, really create some energy and emotion and some knowledge around our nominees. That, I think, is critical to getting people to tune in and remain interested.”

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