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Two candidates have emerged as the clear favorites to become the new board president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: Lionsgate Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-Chairman Rob Friedman and veteran studio publicity executive Cheryl Boone Isaacs.
On Tuesday night the 48 members of the academy's board of governors will meet to choose a replacement for one-term president Hawk Koch, who served only a year on the job because of term limits. Both Friedman and Isaacs are currently on the board.
Both potential leaders come from the publicity branch of the organization. Friedman has been on the board for the last four years, most recently serving as the organization's treasurer. Isaacs, a publicity consultant, has served in every office within the organization except president. She is currently the organization's first vice president. If elected she would become the academy's first African American board president.
The position used to be considered a part-time job. But in recent years, under presidents Tom Sherak and Koch, it has become a full-time commitment.
Friedman is better known in the Hollywood film community; Isaacs has devoted herself to working behind the scenes at the academy in recent years, including producing last year's Governors Awards. Friedman, in contrast, is the co-chairman of Lionsgate Entertainment Group, which encompasses Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, the studios behind "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight" franchises, respectively. Friedman would still be splitting his time between the two jobs similar to previous board presidents such as producer Sid Ganis and screenwriter Frank Pierson.
The election for a new president comes at a time when the academy faces considerable challenges. Though the ratings for the 2013 Oscar broadcast were up from the previous year, the show, starring host Seth MacFarlane, was widely criticized for its treatment of women.
A second issue is diversity. A 2012 Los Angeles Times survey found that the academy was overwhelmingly white, male and older. Though Koch and academy CEO Dawn Hudson have made strides to increase the diversity within the organization — eliminating the quota system for electing new members, bringing in additional women to the board — the group is still predominantly male and white.
Also, the academy is moving quickly on development of a film museum on Wilshire Boulevard next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that the organization hopes to open by 2017. That will mean adding a significant number of jobs, including a curatorial staff, and expenses as the institution preps for the start of construction.
Hudson, who joined the academy in 2011 from Film Independent, has brought a lot of change to the group, ruffling some feathers as she hired a slew of new employees in an attempt to increase the organization's diversity and its outreach into the community.
"Most of the people on the board can be president," said Sherak. "I don't think you have to be a brain surgeon. You have to have good common sense and guide the organization in the way the board wants it to be guided. You don't take over and do what you want."
Under Koch's brief tenure the academy improved its member engagement, holding the first town hall meeting in Los Angeles, with simulcasts in New York and the Bay Area. The academy also tried to make strides in diversifying its organization, inviting close to 300 new members to its annual ranks, including many minorities and women. Its new board, elected last month, added seven women to its ranks.
Departing board leader Koch, who will return to his job as president of the Producers Guild of America, a job he shares with Mark Gordon, feels proud of the progress the academy has made in terms of outreach and diversity.
"There was a lot that I wanted to accomplish," he said in an interview Friday. "Dawn had only been in the job for a year. I wanted to put Dawn and everyone else in a comfortable position so that when I left I felt like wow, the train has gone up to the top of the hill and now we are really going to start moving. That's where I think it went."
[For the record, 12:53 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Rob Friedman's title is Lionsgate co-Chair, not Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-Chair.]Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times