Guild member calls act 'a slap in the face'

Rank-and-file SAG members have launched a grassroots campaign to leave ballots blank in film categories while voting for SAG Awards to protest the decision by exhibs to take away the free-admission perk during awards season.

“This is a slap in the face to SAG members,” said thesp Brian Hamilton, who initiated the campaign through his Web site, “So leaving the film part of the ballot blank is an appropriate protest.”

SAG warned members last week that some exhibs were no longer following past practice of accepting paid-up SAG cards for admission to nominated films and added that it was attempting to persuade the chains to relent. The National Assn. of Theater Owners refused to comment.

“People have to understand this is a financial decision between exhibitors and studios,” SAG spokeswoman Ilyanne Kichaven said. “Since members were ad-mitted free in previous years, they had become accustomed to the practice.”

The 2,100 members of SAG’s nominating committee were allowed into screenings before film nominations in five categories were announced on Jan. 28. All 98,000 members will vote on the nominations, with ballots going out Tuesday and winners announced March 9.

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