Latest Class of Oscar Voters Is Nearly Half Women

Latest Class of Oscar Voters Is Nearly Half Women

LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences keeps opening its doors wider as it tries to end its days as an exclusive club primarily for white men.

The 91-year-old academy said on Monday that it would increase the Oscar voting pool to about 9,300 people, a new high, by inviting 928 film industry professionals to become members. Last year, the academy extended invitations to 774 people. As recently as a decade ago, the organization limited invitations to as few as 115 people a year, contending that small classes kept the professional caliber of members high.

By the academy’s count, about 49 percent of those invited this year are women, including stars like Jada Pinkett Smith, Amy Schumer, Ann Dowd, Sarah Silverman, Christine Baranski and Tiffany Haddish. About 30 percent are minorities, including filmmakers like Hong Sang-soo (“On the Beach at Night Alone”) and Nanfu Wang (“Hooligan Sparrow”). Other notable invitees included Dave Chappelle, J. K. Rowling, Audra McDonald and two nominees for best actor this year, Daniel Kaluuya and Timothée Chalamet.

One name notably absent from the list is Kobe Bryant, who received an Academy Award in March for the animated short “Dear Basketball.” Oscar winners are automatically considered for membership. The academy’s 54-member board, which holds ultimate say over new members, would have opened itself up to criticism if it had invited Mr. Bryant, who was accused of sexual assault in 2003, though the case was ultimately dropped.

If all the invitations are accepted — some people have declined in the past, one being Woody Allen — female membership will rise to 31 percent, up from 28 percent, according to the academy. (Nine of the academy’s 17 branches invited more women than men this year.) The percentage of minority members would climb to 16 percent, from 13 percent.

The academy’s membership came under intense scrutiny in 2016, when, for the second year in a row, the organization did not nominate any minority actors for Oscars and overlooked films that focused on black characters for best picture nominations. Embarrassed by the resulting #OscarsSoWhite outrage, academy leaders vowed to double female and minority membership by 2020.

The manner in which the academy has expanded its ranks has rankled some members. Bill Mechanic, a former 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios executive, resigned from the academy’s board in April and wrote in his resignation letter, “We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the industry’s problem far, far more than it is the academy’s.”

In pushing toward a more diverse membership, the academy tapped film professionals from around the globe — a necessity because the American film business remains overwhelmingly white and male. New invitees hail from 59 countries, the academy said.

About 41 percent of the 33 people invited in the directors’ branch are women, no small feat given the shortage of opportunities for female filmmakers in Hollywood, where 85 percent of directors are male, according to research by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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