Guidelines on screenings, mailings updated

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has moved to significantly reduce the number of post-nominations screenings by closing a loophole that studios took full advantage of last year.

Between the Jan. 15 noms and the end of Oscar voting on Feb. 19, backers of each film may invite Academy members to as many as four screenings with filmmaker Q&As, plus a fifth in the U.K., according to rule changes AMPAS revealed Wednesday. None of those events can include a reception or complimentary food or beverages.

In 2011, rule changes by the Acad restricted participation of a film’s cast and crew to two screenings by the film company after nominations day, but that rule essentially had a workaround, Academy chief operating officer Ric Robertson indicated.

“Last year, the rule was no one filmmaker, actor, director, producer, d.p., could do more than two Q&As in that post-nominations period,” he told Variety. “Depending on how many people were in the film (such as those with large ensembles or production teams), that still allowed a particular film to do an extraordinary number of Q&As.

“The feedback we got … was that there were just too many. Someone at one of our meetings said that on one given night there were nine Q&As going on.”

The restrictions do not include events staged by AMPAS or the guilds — although film companies may not sponsor promotional events there that violate Acad regulations.

“These rules help us maintain a level playing field for all of the nominees and protect the integrity of the awards process,” Academy prexy Tom Sherak said in a statement.

Catered screenings with Q&As are not limited in number before nominations are announced.

“The big change last year was easing up on restrictions in terms of pre-nominations,” Robertson said, “and really focusing on the post-nominations period. I think that was really a smart move on our part. … It’s very difficult to enforce pre-nominations (restrictions on screenings).”

In other changes for the coming Oscar season, the Academy has ruled that members can receive nominated films both on DVD and as a digital download. Previously, members were restricted to one or the other, but Robertson said AMPAS recognized that the org is “in a transition period” as far as how members like to receive their screeners.

However, the org has limited film companies to one email and one piece of conventional mail per week. It’s the first such restriction by the Academy on non-screener mail, according to Robertson, who said Acad members were being “inundated” with material.

Remaining on the books is a prohibition against companies sending members links to websites that promote a film using audio, video or other multimedia elements — except in the case of links to the official Oscar website for “Academy Conversations” videos, which are allowed.

In addition, the Acad strengthened its ban against film companies using third parties to bypass regulations against distribution. In particular, the companies can’t have a publication use its subscriber lists to send stand-alone materials to members except in connection with the actual distribution of the publication itself.

The Academy reviews its campaign rules every year. Last year’s changes focused not only on screenings but also a restriction against negative campaigning on social media that remains in play.

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