Reflecting on last weekend’s lively, three-day “Revival Summit” at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — it was a celebration for museums. Rebirth: Black Cinema 1898-1971 Exhibition – I was struck by a wild fantasy.
In the distant future—I mean, even after my brand new driver’s license expires—maybe museum members, at least some of them, will be voting for the Oscars.
To be clear, no one I know is talking about this. The current management of both museums and academies might rightly dismiss the idea as harebrained.
But time is a relentless beast. Let that stomp on the feet of those involved institutions for a while, and the right to pay museum members might start to look like an option. It would certainly be a slick way to support the museum while freeing the Oscars from their reliance on a dwindling broadcast audience—ie, the hoi polloi.
From what we learned from the Regeneration Summit, I think the film museum, more than just an exhibition hall, is a potential magnet for many affinity groups composed of a new film elite. The summit was supposed to bring together filmmakers, scholars, fans and those hungry for fare from “a market featuring all black women-owned pop-up food vendors” for a mini-festival of screenings, panels and events designed and designed for larger, like-minded people. .
There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if the museum does it again, and again, and again, for the many cultural subsets that now crave their own expression in film. Gender is diverse. feminist Climate activists. International freedom fighter. Who knows? Even old-fashioned movie fans and believers can have a weekend.
The point is, the museum seems well-equipped to tap into the film-centric intensity of each of these groups. Its culturally targeted exhibition can clearly evoke emotions.
Now, the trick is to harness that power, and frankly, monetize it.
And that’s where the allure of Oscar voting comes in.
Consider: Currently, you can become a museum member for $100 a year. This gives you free access to exhibitions, discounts and fast check-in, among other things Jump up to the “Patron” level for $1,000 a year, and perks include free admission to all screenings, an annual reception, and invitations to evenings and celebrations at, perhaps, the Reincarnation Conference.
But imagine the possibility of, say, a $1,500-a-year “super-patron” membership, That may include the right to help nominate and name the Best Picture winner, as well as access to dozens of films screened in the Digital Academy Screening Room..
Just 10,000 such “super-patrons”—double the current number of Academy voters—would earn $15 million a year, perhaps enough to close a potential gap between museum operating costs and combined earned revenue and projected endowments.
Add another 20,000—in all, less than a quarter of Sundance’s pre-Covid attendance—and the Academy could tap-dance off this variety-show every year for ABC and its license fees. The awards can be presented more cheaply in front of super-engaged – a mixed pool of film workers and elite stakeholders – a mostly similarly invested streaming audience.
The expanded voting pool certainly won’t make for the dreaded Pop Oscars.
Rather, museum voters will be an intense and diverse group of self-selected cinephiles whose involvement in various festivals, summits, and celebrations — along with cash — entitles them to an informed vote. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, complaining about snobs, they’ll be invited to jump in.
Yes, it will be mostly a well-heeled lot. But so do current Oscar voters, who pay $450 a year in Academy dues.
For the rest of us, well, we didn’t pay much attention when we had the chance. Maybe we should step aside and give it to insiders – for a price.