The film academy’s chief executive, Dawn Hudson, will step down at end of term

Dawn Hudson stands at a lectern.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences chief executive Dawn Hudson last month at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opening news conference.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

After 10 transformative — and at times tumultuous — years at the helm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization’s chief executive, Dawn Hudson, announced on Monday that this current term will be her last.

The academy’s board of governors last year extended Hudson’s contract to run through May 2023. According to the organization, a search for a successor will begin soon and Hudson will play a critical role in the transition.

The news comes just weeks after the long-awaited opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a $480-million project that Hudson played a key role in spearheading and that, despite its problem-plagued gestation, has been well received thus far.


“After more than ten years and the incredibly successful opening of our new museum, I’ve decided, when this term concludes, it will be time for me to explore other opportunities and adventures as this can hardly be topped,” Hudson said in a statement.

Here’s a guide to take in the best that L.A.’s Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has to offer and our tips to make a full day of it.

“We’ve achieved so much together that’s been most important to me — our ongoing commitment to representation and inclusion; adapting the Academy into a digitally sophisticated global institution; and creating the world’s premier movie museum that will be the destination of film fans for decades. The Board of Governors and I are mutually committed to a seamless transition to new leadership. I’m excited for what the future holds, for both the Academy and for me.”

Hudson‘s tenure at the academy’s helm has been been marked by unprecedented change — and major challenges — for the organization as the tradition-bound 94-year-old institution has had to adapt to the rapidly changing world around it.

In the wake of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the historically white-male-dominated organization took dramatic steps to expand and diversify its membership, doubling the number of women and people of color in its ranks. In just the last five years, the organization has swelled from roughly 6,500 members to more than 10,000.

Hudson took the reins at the the academy in 2011, having previously served as president of Film Independent. As chief executive, she has overseen the academy’s 450-person staff in Los Angeles, New York and London, overseeing operations and outreach, including awards, membership, marketing, communications, finance and technology as well as the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Academy Foundation.

Perhaps not surprisingly given the academy’s prominence as the public face of Hollywood, Hudson’s tenure has been frequently punctuated by controversies large and small.

While the academy’s steps to diversify its ranks following the #OscarsSoWhite drew widespread praise, some within the organization initially bristled at what they saw as a heavy-handed response. As the #MeToo movement rocked Hollywood, the academy expelled Harvey Weinstein and filmmaker Roman Polanski from its ranks and adopted a new code of conduct for its members.

In an embarrassing snafu, the wrong best picture was initially named at the 2017 Academy Awards. Two years later, Kevin Hart was dropped as host of the Oscars amid a firestorm over past homophobic comments he had made on social media.

Most crucially, as the entertainment landscape has undergone seismic shifts, recent years have also seen a steady erosion in viewership for the Academy Awards, from which the organization derives the lion’s share of its revenue. This year’s Oscars, mounted in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, were the lowest-rated in history.

As she has grappled with these often existential challenges, Hudson has been a lightning rod and at times a polarizing figure within the organization.

“There’s an idea of change and then there’s actually going through change,” Hudson told The Times in 2017. “And sometimes it’s harder to go through it. That’s human. I think there’s a natural instinct to resist change. Even if you want it, it can still feel a little scary.”

As the organization looks ahead to a new era, academy President David Rubin praised Hudson for her stewardship.

“Dawn has been, and continues to be, a groundbreaking leader for the Academy,” Rubin said in a statement. “Advancements in the diversity and gender parity of our membership, our increased international presence, and the successful opening of a world-class Academy Museum — a project she revived, guided and championed — are already part of her legacy. I know the Board of Governors joins me in looking forward to our collaboration with Dawn in the many months ahead, as we map out a plan for succession.”