Oscar voter faces nomination dilemma

It's the biggest night in Hollywood, the Oscars. A Scottsdale man has had a hand in the process for more than 30 years.

A longtime film and television producer, Larry Sugar has been a voting member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1983. Before actually voting on the awards, members of the Academy each nominate in specific categories. Writers nominate writers. Actors nominate actors. It can add up to a lot of movies. Every year, Sugar nominates for Best Picture, which means he sees dozens of films.

"I take it really seriously," said Sugar. "I consider it a great honor and a privilege and I think that demands that I treat it seriously."

Now that he's retired, he wants to watch them at the Harkins Theatre near his Scottsdale home.

But when he presented his Academy card, the theater didn't recognize it.

"I've used it in New York, San Francisco, Vancouver British Columbia and if Vancouver can take it how can Phoenix not take it," said Sugar. "It's not even in the same country."

There's no official Academy rule that a card-carrying member can see movies at the cinema for free. Some theaters see it as a professional courtesy. Sugar was surprised Harkins didn't see the Oscar process that way.

"They certainly take advantage of it," he said. "They certainly advertise it when there's been a nomination. They certainly advertise it when there's been an award. And they absolutely benefit."

Harkins does allow Guild members to see movies for free during award season, on a picture-by-picture basis. But Sugar is not a Guild member. His card comes from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

As a member of the Academy, he receives invitations for screenings held in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and even London, but it's a long way to travel just to see a movie. He also often receives DVDs of films for consideration. But, Larry continues to pay to see as many as he can at the theater near his Scottsdale home. He says he wants to see these movies on the big screen.

"The size of the picture makes you feel as though you're a part of it," said Sugar. "The sound makes it real. And an audience and an audience reaction absolutely add to the impact of the movie."

That's what he wants to base his nominations on, before the Academy tallies all of them up from every member to reveal official nominations and subsequent award-winners during the live televised broadcast of the Oscars.

After months of phone calls back and forth with a spokesperson, Harkins Theatres repeatedly declined to comment on this story. 12 News also reached out to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but did not hear back this week.

Sugar plans to enjoy the broadcast of the Academy Awards on Sunday at an Oscar watch-party with friends.


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