New Oscar Campaign Rules Limit Email, Screening Invites

In annual revision of Oscar campaign rules, Academy clamps down on emails, limits post-nomination screening invites and bans use of third-party mailing lists

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced its yearly tweaking of Oscar campaign regulations, with the new regulations including tighter restrictions on post-nomination screenings and on mailings and email promoting films.

Many of the new regulations are focused on the period between nominations and the Oscar show, when Academy members can only be invited to four screenings of a nominated film, if those screenings include filmmaker participation. (A fifth screening is permitted in the U.K.) Receptions are forbidden at those screenings.

AMPASA 2011 rule change had limited any person involved with a nominated film to only participate in two screenings, but Academy COO Ric Robertson told TheWrap that that members and campaign professionals had complained that the restriction still allowed for "a tremendous number of Q&As in some cases."

In other restrictions, companies are now limited to sending one piece of mail or email per week, which Robertson said should cut back on another common complaint made by Academy voters. Campaigns cannot send members links to websites that use multimedia elements.

And while companies can use Oscar-related publications for ads and other promotional materials, they cannot have those publications use their subscriber lists to send materials directly to Academy members.

Robertson said the rule would have eliminated a few of the more controversial mailings that were made during last year's campaign, but that on the whole the Academy was happy with that campaign period.

"The changes we made a year ago involved a philosophical change in our approach, and they seemed to be pretty effective," he said. "I would characterize these new rules as fairly minor tweaks."

Tighter regulations were put in place last year to govern the second phase of campaigning, from the announcement of nominations until the close of voting. At the same time, restrictions were lifted on parties, screening events and Q&As during the initial phase before the announcement of nominations.

The result was a large increase in the number of parties and receptions during the pre-nomination phase — an increase, said Robertson, "that we can live with."

The post-nomination period will be significantly longer in the upcoming Oscar season, with the Academy Awards show remaining in late February but the nominations being moved up a week, to Jan. 15.

In addition to allowing screenings that include Q&As with filmmakers and cast, something that was forbidden before last year, the Academy is now holding those screenings itself. Many of the official AMPAS screenings in Beverly Hills, which take place every Saturday and Sunday at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, now include post-screening Q&As, the highlights of which are subsequently posted on the Academy website.

The Academy's Q&A video is the only multimedia content to which campaign materials can link.

The new rules spell out that companies can send both screener DVDs and digital downloads of films, making official a change that was quietly made during the last Oscar season.

The AMPAS press release:

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has updated regulations for how companies and individuals may market movies and achievements eligible for the 85th Academy Awards® to Academy members. The changes pertain to screenings that feature live filmmaker participation, the formats on which members may receive screeners, and limitations on how mail, email and websites may be used in campaigning.

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

After the announcement of nominations on January 15, 2013, and until the final polls close (February 19, 2013), Academy members may be invited to up to four screenings of a nominated film that are preceded or followed by filmmaker Q&As or other such participation. A fifth such event in the United Kingdom will be permitted.  All participants must be nominated or have been eligible for nomination.  No screening event may include a reception or otherwise offer complimentary food or beverages. These limitations do not apply to screenings held by the Academy, guilds or similar organizations.

The regulations also now stipulate that members may receive the film both on DVD and as a digital download.

Additionally, each week, members may be sent only one piece of mail and one email per film company.  The rules maintain the prohibition on sending members links to websites that promote a film using audio, video, or other multimedia elements, but may include links to the videos in the “Academy Conversations” series on Oscars.org.

The Academy has augmented its existing ban on film companies using third parties to distribute materials that they would be prohibited from sending directly. The regulation now specifies that film companies may not have a publication use its subscriber lists to send stand alone materials to members, except in connection with the distribution of the publication itself.  This amendment does not affect a company’s ability to place their usual promotional materials in trade publications.

Similarly, while guilds and other awards organizations may hold non-screening events after the nominations announcement, this rule now specifies that film companies may not use such occasions as opportunities to sponsor promotional events that would otherwise violate Academy regulations.

To read the complete Regulations Concerning the Promotion of Films Eligible for the 85th Academy Awards, go to http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/rules/regulations.html.

The 85th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

More to come.