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Academy Makes Changes Aimed At Making Oscar Less White

Freshly painted Oscar Statues in preparation for the Governors Awards and the 82nd Academy Awards at a secret location on Oct. 19, 2009 in Northern Los Angeles County. (Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)
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Like a good Hollywood mystery, it's still unclear how -- or even if -- the Academy Awards can happen next year. But the organizers of the Oscars already are promising that future ceremonies won't look quite the same.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science said todayit is amending its rules to help make Oscar eligibility more inclusive. One way is through a new mandate that 10 movies be nominated for best picture every year, starting with the 2022 ceremony.

The idea is that by casting a guaranteed wider net, smaller movies might have a better chance of being shortlisted. This year, for example, nine films were nominated for best picture, and several movies with Black themes were excluded, including "The Last Black Man in San Francisco" and "Clemency."

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The shortlist for the top Academy Award currently can range from as few as five films to a maximum of 10; those guidelines will still be in place for the next awards show, scheduled for Feb. 8. (The academy previously announced that, owing to the pandemic,films need not premiere in theaters to be eligible for the upcoming ceremony.)

Following years of criticism over the demographics of its voters (predominantly older white men), and the lack of diversity among its nominees (yielding the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite), the academy has expanded its membership dramatically to include hundreds more voters who are women and non-white. It is calling its new initiative "Academy Aperture 2025."

"While the Academy has made strides, we know there is much more work to be done in order to ensure equitable opportunities across the board," Dawn Hudson, the academy's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The need to address this issue is urgent."

The academy did not reveal many specific details beyond the mandatory 10 best picture nominees and new term limits for board members. It did say, however, that it is assembling a task force "to develop and implement new representation and inclusion standards."

The leaders of the academy and all of its approximate 9,000 members will have access to unconscious bias training. One new change for the 2022 Oscars will be quarterly online viewing of eligible films, so that the awards race might be less tilted toward fall and winter releases.