The roster of all 5,765 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a closely guarded secret. Even inside the movie industry, intense speculation surrounds the Academy’s composition and how that influences who gets nominated for and wins Oscars. The organization does not publish a membership list. Last Sunday, however, The Los Angeles Times did publish an exhaustive report which peels back much of the mystery surrounding this exclusive club, providing the most comprehensive cross section to-date of its elusive membership demographic. To conduct the study, Times reporters spoke with thousands of Academy members and their representatives — and reviewed Academy publications, resumes and biographies — to confirm the identities of more than 5,100 voters — more than 89% of the voting members (worth noting is the fact that membership is for life). Those interviews revealed varying opinions about the Academy’s race, sex and age breakdown: Some members see it simply as a mirror of hiring patterns in Hollywood, while others say it reflects the group’s mission to recognize achievement rather than promote diversity. Among the discoveries are the following numbers:
☞ Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian
☞ Oscar voters are nearly 77% male
☞ Blacks are about 2% of the Academy
☞ Latinos are less than 2%
☞ Oscar voters have a median age of 62, people younger than 50 make up just 14% of the membership (which partly explains why the overhyped ‘The King’s Speech’ won out over ‘The Social Network’)
☞ Some are people who have left the movie business entirely but continue to vote on the Oscars, including a nun, a bookstore owner and a retired Peace Corps recruiter. Under Academy rules, their votes count the same as ballots cast by the likes of Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Leonardo DiCaprio
You can read the entire report by visiting The Los Angeles Times. The Academy was founded in 1927 with two aims: to mediate labor disputes and improve the movie industry’s image. Louis B. Mayer, the legendary head of MGM, initiated the idea and invited an elite cadre of professionals, including actress and United Artists studio co-founder Mary Pickford, director Cecil B. DeMille and producer Irving Thalberg, to join. The Academy’s membership grew steadily over the years as the organization moved away from labor management issues to focus on film preservation, research and the Oscars, first presented in 1929 in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
Today, the Academy oversees more than $196 million in assets and dispenses more than $20 million in grants and scholarships a year, including to Streetlights™, a job training and placement group that works to promote ethnic diversity in Hollywood. It donates $750,000 annually to film festivals around the country and sponsors an annual screenwriting competition that rewards winners with $35,000 fellowships. According to its tax filing for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the Oscars generated $81.3 million in total revenue for the organization.
The Academy Awards airs tonight with red carpet coverage beginning at 7:00pm EST on ABC and red carpet coverage on CTV beginning at 8:00pm EST. The ceremony airs on each network from 8:30pm-11:30pm. For all things Oscar be sure to visit OSCAR.com. To learn more about AMPAS™ you can visit OSCAR.org.