Oscar voters get less white, Priyanka Chopra and Fan Bingbing are among actresses invited to become members

Fan Bingbing arrives on stage during the 70th Cannes Film Festival closing ceremony.
Fan Bingbing arrives on stage during the 70th Cannes Film Festival closing ceremony. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (NYTimes, Reuters) - As it races to leave behind its days as an exclusive club primarily for white men, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the second year in a row invited hundreds of women and minorities to become members.

But the academy still has a way to go before reaching its goal of doubling female and minority membership by 2020, a target set in January 2016 after two years of #OscarsSoWhite outrage.

The academy said on Wednesday that it would increase the Oscar voting pool to 8,427 people - a record high - by extending membership invitations to 774 entertainment industry professionals, including some known mostly for television (Betty White, Incredible Hulk actor Lou Ferrigno, Mr Robot star Rami Malek, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm) and stars who focus on crowd-pleasing movies (Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot, Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones, Rogue One actor Riz Ahmed, Dwayne Johnson).

By the academy's count, about 39 per cent of those invited this year are women, and roughly 30 percent are minorities.


If all the invitations are accepted, female membership would rise to 28 percent from 27 percent. The percentage of minorities would climb to 13 percent from 11 percent. Almost everyone invited to join the academy accepts, but the organisation keeps exact membership rolls private.

"It's up to all of us to ensure that new faces and voices are seen and heard, and to take a shot on the next generation the way someone took a shot on each of us," Ms Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the academy's departing president, said in a statement.

In reaching for a more diverse membership, the academy tapped film professionals from around the globe. This year's new members, which include British actress Naomie Harris, a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Moonlight at the most recent Academy Awards, hail from 57 countries. The academy's increasing globalisation is notable because the American film business continues to be overwhelmingly white and male.

The academy extended 91 more invitations than last year, when a record 683 people were asked to join. In the previous decade, the academy limited invitations to as few as 115 each year, contending that small classes kept the professional calibre of members high.

But running membership like an exclusive country club was no longer sustainable by last year, when, for the second year in a row, the academy did not nominate any minority actors for Oscars and overlooked films that focused on black characters for Best Picture nominations. The omissions resulted in the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. The resulting outcry prompted Ms Dawn Hudson, the academy's chief executive, and Ms Boone Isaacs to set ambitious membership goals.

To have any hope of reaching those targets, the academy had to increase the annual class size. For instance, a 2016 analysis by The New York Times of the academy's acting branch showed that about 80 actors would need to be admitted a year, and three women for every man, to reach approximate gender parity by 2020. About 70 actors were invited last year, roughly half of them women. About 105 were asked to join on Wednesday; slightly more than half were women, including Amy Poehler , Indian actress Priyanka Chopra and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

The academy said that seven of its 17 branches invited more women than men this year, including the units devoted to editors, documentarians and studio executives. Among executives, an invitation went to Ms Shari Redstone, the vice chairman of CBS and Viacom. (Fun fact: The youngest person invited was actress Elle Fanning, 19, and the oldest was White, 95.)