When Wenting Xu and Diedrik van Hoogstraten sent their blanket resignation letter to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in mid-June, I had to look twice at the sixth point. It’s the one that begins: “Internal transparency, which is never great to begin with, has actually decreased since February, so members no longer know the details about the finances.”
The complaint could easily have been directed at another Hollywood nonprofit award-giving organization: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
As of Monday, June 28, the Film Academy, with more than 9,000 members and hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, had not yet provided its members or the general public with its annual report for the fiscal year that closed 12 months. earlier, on June 30, 2020. In other words, a stakeholder could not easily track financial performance linked to the Oscars before the last one, when Parasite was Best Picture, regardless of the little-watched show in April, when Nomadic land livestock.
The Film Academy will honor Danny Glover, Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May and Liv Ullmann at the 2022 Governors Awards
To be clear, the numbers can be discovered, if you are sophisticated enough to get at least six clicks on the website of the Electronic Municipal Marketing Access service, which tracks the bonus offers organized by certain public entities. For those lacking time and patience, 2020 finances are here. As reported, they were disclosed to bondholders on Christmas Eve, which, counting on my fingers, appeared to be the last business day in the 180-day disclosure window specified in the surety agreement.
However, as of Monday, the Academy’s public website, at Oscars.org, showed only the 2019 report, from when Green Book what a winner. A pair of canny members who kindly checked the Academy’s exclusive membership portal couldn’t find any trace of the 2020 report. Historically, finances from the old Oscars cycle were distributed before the next show, sometimes the fall before.
But this year, nothing, or at least, nothing that smart and interested members can easily find.
A spokesperson for the Academy declined to comment.
Of course, the final fiscal year comes to a close on Wednesday, raising questions perhaps more pressing than in the previous two years, when revenue under the Academy’s television contract with ABC, the institution’s main revenue stream, is they slid slightly to something in the $ 105 million range, after years of steady gain.
Have the numbers dropped again this year, following a disastrously low television broadcast, watched by only about 10.4 million viewers? For a little bit? For long? No way? Who would know? Academy officials have offered no public comment or member communication on the figures, even as the group elected its new Board of Governors this month, and full disclosure does not seem likely until the next bond deadline, at the end of December.
But, given the Academy’s liability for about $ 488 million in debt related to its yet-to-open film museum, the questions are not incidental. So perhaps the new board should think about reforms aimed at increasing institutional transparency, paying attention to fiscal issues.
You could start by requiring the distribution of the audited financial statements within, say, 90 days after the close of the fiscal year. And if it’s really about member participation, the board might even consider requiring quarterly reports, just like public corporations.
Going one step further, the board could distribute the agenda of its regular meetings to the members. If the governors are feeling crazy and insane, they might even allow members to attend, via a video link, if not in person.
That would likely require them to rescind a confidentiality restriction that was added to the statutes in the last decade. But it doesn’t seem outrageous that governors are allowed to discuss issues with those who elected them.
In fact, an annual membership meeting would not be a bad idea. At the very least, it would avoid the kind of transparency complaint that, among many other things, just hit the HFPA.