Academy Chief Dawn Hudson's Contract Deadline Looms

Dawn Hudson

While her three-year deal expires in June, it has yet to be taken up by the organization's board of governors, whose next meeting isn't until May 6.

This story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The clock is ticking on Dawn Hudson’s contract as CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her three-year deal expires in June, and it has yet to be taken up by the organization’s board of governors, whose next meeting isn’t until May 6. While that would appear to be cutting it close, sources say discussions are progressing and a proposal is expected to be presented at that board meeting.

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Succeeding the Academy’s longtime executive director Bruce Davis in 2011, Hudson, who previously headed Film Independent, inevitably shook up the tradition-bound organization. In addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations of its 300 staff members, she has pressed its 17 branches to invite in more women and minorities, presided over rising ratings for the Oscars — with 43.7 million viewers, the March show was the most watched in 10 years — and through her friendship with Los Angeles County Museum of Art CEO Michael Govan, she is playing a key role in the development of the new Academy Museum, which is scheduled to open in 2017.

Critics charge, though, that she has spent too freely. Academy expenses for fiscal year 2013 rose $8.8 million to $97.3 million, while revenue increased $31.1 million to $134.4 million. “My sense is that she’s weathered that storm,” says a member. But other sources claim that the Academy’s executive committee recently floated a proposal to renew Hudson’s contract for only one year, though several board members said they haven’t heard that suggestion. "We don't discuss contract negotiations," says Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, and as for any speculation about the terms of that contract, she adds, "and your information is wrong."

Meanwhile, it's business-as-usual at the Academy. On April 1, Hudson and Boone Isaacs flew to London to meet with members abroad. “From the point of view of a past president,” says Sid Ganis, “I would expect Dawn’s contract to be renewed. Dawn and Cheryl are doing a great job, making changes in the main order of doing business, in a businesslike and fiscally good way, while also promoting the art of the movies."