In Hollywood, social events are part of the business, especially when it comes to awards season. During Oscar season, studios bust out the big bucks and throw lavish parties as a subtle tool of persuasion for members of the academy to "consider" their films in their respective nominated categories. These promotional events have become such a mainstay of the award season protocol that media coverage has even gone so far as to cover the parties themselves. But to this, the academy says 'no more.'
New regulations passed down from the Academy Wednesday would limit the kinds of events that voters are allowed to attend; the policy becomes even stricter during the period between when the nominations are announced and the actual awards ceremony. Under the new rules, once the nominations are announced on January 24, voters are only allowed to attend a promotional party or event if it includes a screening. Academy members are allowed to attend screenings with cast and crew on hand for a question-and-answer session, but receptions with food or drinks following these sessions are forbidden. There are no restrictions regarding how many screenings of a film can occur, but cast and crew members may only participate in a maximum of two panel discussions. Prior to nominations, these rules are lax and allow screenings with food and beverages, but the Academy felt that after nominations, these events undoubtedly serve as a campaign tool.
Despite these seemingly rigid rules, there are still vast gaps in the Academy's policy that proves to be puzzling given the recent crackdown. Many question why the rules aren't as rigid prior to the nominations and cite a lack of consistency. The Academy still wanted celebrity-studded Q&A sessions to encourage members to attend films on the big screen; as Academy COO, Ric Robertson admits to the Miami Herald, "It's a lot easier to get people into theaters if there is going to be a discussion with a director and actor afterwards." However, if this was the case, then why was the digital distribution of films to members made acceptable with these new rules? It would seem that putting restrictions on DVD screeners and, at the very least, digital distribution of films would aid in this cause more than dividing up awards season.
Although it may put a damper on the award season social calendar, organizers hope this move will create a level playing field for the smaller films whose productions can't compete on the level of the studios. In addition, these rules may breath new life into the Oscar, which is frequently seen as a stamp of approval that major studios can use to boost DVD and ticket sales. While these new regulations may seem a tad inconsistent, they are supposedly put in place with the best intentions. Robertson reflects these sentiments,
"For us, it was a matter of perception as much as anything," Robertson told The Wrap. "To the extent that you guys were writing about parties and campaigns and things other than the work itself, that's not good for us. We want to do everything we can to put the focus back on the work."