EXCLUSIVE: This is truly the end of an era. I’ve just learned that Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences executive director Bruce Davis announced at this evening’s Board Of Governors meeting that he intends to retire on June 30th, 2011, after 30 years working for the world’s preeminent film group. Davis has run AMPAS with an increasingly iron fist in recent years and become a controversial figure to say the least. While he has many successes under his belt, the least of which is that AMPAS is still a rich and vital organization whose prestige remains high, Davis also had notable failures in recent years. Most glaringly, he couldn’t get an Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures off the ground, with AMPAS spending tens of millions of dollars to buy the property for the proposed 8-acre campus without first raising the necessary funding and now having nothing to show for the money because the project is postponed indefinitely. He also allowed AMPAS to lag behind in technology, which means administrators will have to start from ground zero to ensure Academy voters can receive the films in competition on their computers and vote online if the 2012 Oscars are moved up to January or early February as the Board of Governors is considering. He also presided over a smugly arrogant organization shrouded in secrecy (favored staff were sworn to silence when they received large raises despite the global financial crisis) and accustomed to bullying outsiders and even employees (there continue to be attempts to unionize staff dispirited over bare minimum cost-of-living pay increases, pension changes, and few merit raises).
This will be a coveted job in Hollywood when the board looks for his successor. A native of Washington DC, Davis was the chair of the Theater Department at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College when in 1980 he decided to moved to California to pursue a writing career. In 1981, he was hired by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was named executive administrator in 1983, overseeing the Academy’s Herrick Library, its film archives, and its public programming. He became executive director of the Academy in 1989. While the Board of Governors is responsible for corporate management, overall control, and general policies for AMPAS, it also appoints an executive director to supervise the Academy’s administrative activities including a staff of 200+ to conduct the day-to-day business. I’ve obtained the communication Davis just sent to his employees:
To The Academy Staff:
At this evening’s Board meeting I announced to the governors my intention of retiring from my position as executive director at the end of the current fiscal year (June 30, 2011). I wanted the staff to have a clear statement of my plans as well.
When I leave I will have spent thirty years at the Academy, and more than twenty as its executive director. That seems like enough. Organizations and individuals both benefit from periodic shifts in perspective.
A decision about a successor has not been made yet of course, but the Board will take that up shortly and I have no doubt that they will select a new head of staff who will have a clear understanding of your importance to the organization and a deep respect for it.
This change is still a full eight months off, so I’m hoping that I, and all of you, will be able to hold off on doing anything maudlin for the time being.