Motion picture academy reelects Cheryl Boone Isaacs president

Motion picture academy reelects Cheryl Boone Isaacs as president.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

When Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Cheryl Boone Isaacs walked onto the stage of the Dolby Theater at the Oscars in March, she wore comfortable shoes, locked eyes with a few friends in the crowd and became — for a TV audience of more than 40 million people — the public face of the movie industry’s most prominent organization.

Boone Isaacs, 64, a veteran Hollywood marketer and longtime academy insider, was reelected to her post Tuesday evening by the group’s 51-member board of governors.

The first African American and the third woman to hold the position, she is cognizant of the symbolism of her role, she told The Times in an interview on Wednesday.


“People have come up to me and said, ‘Are you Cheryl Boone Isaacs?’” Boone Isaacs said. “It really went across all races, genders and ages, but I did notice African American folks and young women were very complimentary, and said things like, ‘You’ve really inspired me.’ It is noticeable, and I am very humbled.”

Boone Isaacs will now enter her second one-year term; she is eligible to stay in the role for a total of four years.

A marketing and publicity consultant who previously worked at New Line Cinema and Paramount Pictures, she will be leading the board as it makes crucial decisions about the $300-million Academy Museum, set to open in 2017 at site of the former May Co. building at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.

Among the many choices the academy board made in Boone Isaacs’ first year was hiring the museum’s director, Kerry Brougher, who left a position at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to start the job in July.

“We are still on track to open in 2017,” Boone Isaacs said of the museum. “[Brougher] has hit the ground running, and it escalates our conversation about the experience that the visitor will have.”

She will also work with Oscar telecast producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, who will return for a third time in 2015, to select the host of next year’s Oscars. Boone Isaacs declined to say if Ellen DeGeneres will return as host, but DeGeneres’ job last year helped earn the show its biggest audience in a decade.

Boone Isaacs gives much of the credit for the success of the show to the films represented, which included best picture winner “12 Years a Slave” and nominees “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”

“We were fortunate — our industry and certainly the world had tremendous films last year,” Boone Isaacs said. “Last year’s slate showed a diversity of new filmmakers, fresh talent. We’re pretty sure we’ll see that again this year.”

In general the academy has shown an interest in continuity of late, and not just in its telecast — in May, the board renewed the contract of academy CEO Dawn Hudson, who has overseen the group’s day-to-day operations for the last three years.

One change has been an increase in the power of the academy’s below-the-line membership, who added new branches for costume design and casting directors recently.

With the exception of executives branch Gov. Dick Cook, who remains as treasurer, the other officers elected to the board Tuesday night all come from the academy’s below-the-line branches. Jeffrey Kurland of the costume designers branch was elected first vice president; makeup artists and hairstylists branch Gov. Leonard Engelman kept his position as a vice president; cinematographer John Bailey will hold the other vice president’s office; and short films and feature animation branch Gov. Bill Kroyer will serve as secretary.

Some of Boone Isaacs’ popularity within the academy has come from her advocacy of these groups, particularly in the Governors Awards, an event held in November starting in 2009, which has honored figures like Italian costume designer Piero Tosi and cinematographer Gordon Willis.

The academy has also stepped up its social media outreach, engaging with audiences outside of Hollywood via Twitter and Instagram.

“Technology has really assisted in our ability to communicate not only with our members but with the general public as well,” Boone Isaacs said. “Many people have been discovering exactly what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is, who we are, what we do. Social media has allowed us to get that message out in a quick way, in an efficient way and ... we will continue to do that.”

Twitter: @ThatRebecca