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Fathom Events Fires Back at Emmy Clarification of Theatrical Rule (EXCLUSIVE)

Fathom Events isn’t pleased with a Television Academy stipulation that may limit the number of TV properties that appear on its theater screens going forward.

As clarified earlier this week via its revised Emmy Rules and Procedures handbook, the Academy will disqualify a program for Emmy eligibility if it is seen in a Fathom theatrical release — in other words, via hundreds of theaters on one date. (The one exception: If it still meets the requirements for the Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking award.)

In a statement exclusively given to Variety, Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt expressed concern at the new language, which clarified the ineligibility of Fathom screenings.

“We do not understand the motivation behind the Television Academy’s recent decision to put limitations on ‘Fathom’ and/or theatrical exhibition of television programming, making this content ineligible for awards consideration,” he said. “Television networks find success utilizing the Fathom Events platform to host premiere events; re-release popular content on the big screen; drive brand awareness, engagement and promotion; help increase TV ratings; and support unions/guilds, all through nationwide limited-engagement screening events.”

Fathom is probably best known for screening live events, such as concerts, stage plays, as well as classic movies (such as, up next, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Dirty Dancing”) on screens owned by chains such as AMC Theatres, Cinemark, and Regal Entertainment Group.

Most of Fathom’s non-live screenings are library titles, which wouldn’t impact the Emmys, as those awards focus solely on new content. But TV networks have occasionally used Fathom Events to market series as well.

This is the first time the TV Academy has addressed the Fathom Events practice of one-night, multiple-screen showings. But the Academy has traditionally barred shows from Emmy eligibility if they have been offered for general theatrical exhibition prior to air. The exception has been film festival or limited release screenings for programs looking to fulfill awards or foreign theatrical exhibition requirements.

“This is not a new rule,” said a TV Academy spokesperson. “The new language merely clarifies that the Television Academy considers a single-day, mass theatrical release a wide release which has always disqualified a program from Emmy eligibility if it precedes the day of that program’s television premiere.”

Part of the confusion — and need for clarification — comes from the fact that networks have considered theatrical screenings like Fathom Events to be more of a marketing tool than anything else. In April, AMC TV struck a deal to show commercial-free screenings of “The Walking Dead” Season 8 finale and the “Fear the Walking Dead” Season 4 premiere in theaters. Also that month, YouTube Premium featured an advance screening of the first two episodes of “Cobra Kai,” along side the classic “The Karate Kid” film, as a Fathom event.

Added Nutt: “These screenings act as a promotional vehicle for networks, bringing their content to new and existing audiences, and should not impact the program’s potential Emmy eligibility.”

Nutt and Fathom have been in contact with the Academy, and say they’re now in conversation “to discuss these new rules and how we can best continue working with our major network partners like BBC, AMC, TCM and others, without impacting award eligibility of their exceptional television programs.”

[Pictured: Poster for Fathom Events’ “Cobra Kai” screening last April.]

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