Party ban for stars before Oscars

By Adam Sherwin of The Independent

Hollywood stars could be banned from socialising with each other before the Oscars under a crackdown on social events aimed at wooing voters before the Academy Awards ceremony.

The move is designed to prevent big studios spending millions of dollars on lavish receptions where the all-important Oscar voters are wined and dined.

Last winter's awards were marred by excessive campaigning and the Academy wants to stop films with large publicity budgets gaining an unfair advantage through cocktail parties and DVD launches.

Under the new rules, Academy members are banned from attending parties organised by film companies after the nominations are announced on January 24. Voters may still go to screenings attended by actors, as long as no drinks or canapes are served after the question and answer session.

Filmmakers can participate in a maximum of two "panel" events for Academy members before the final ballots are cast on February 21, a week before the event. Voters are also banned from attending luncheons to honour a star if he is also an Oscar nominee.

Tom Sherak, President of the Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences Academy, said: "These campaign regulations play an important role in protecting the integrity of the Academy Awards process and the distinction of the Oscars."

However, The Hollywood Reporter warned the regulations would turn Oscar-season into a "social minefield".

The rules mean Academy members might not be permitted to hold a private party for someone with an Oscars connection. A publicist was quoted asking: "How do you say to someone whose best friend is nominated that they can't have a dinner for them? Like, Warren Beatty can't have a dinner with Jack Nicholson if Annette (Benning) is nominated?

"If I send out invitations before nominations are announced but the party is after the nominations come out, does that mean the party has to be cancelled?"

The Academy also announced that a ban on "negative campaigning" against films and actors had been extended from emails to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. A "spur of the moment tweet" will be acceptable but consistent knocking of rivals will result in expulsion from the Academy.

Ric Robertson, the Academy's Chief Operating Officer, said: "To the extent the public dialogue about the Oscars is who threw a good party or ran a successful campaign versus the quality of the work, that's off-point for us. We want people to be talking about the work."

The annual Oscar nominees' luncheon will still be permitted to go ahead. Voters can now watch films digitally but they are requested to go to cinema screenings to judge a film as it was intended to be viewed.

A successful Oscars-season marketing campaign costs an estimated $25million, resources that low-budget films are unable to match. Melissa Leo, a Best Supporting Actress nominee this year, bought adverts in trade publications out of her own pocket, inviting voters to consider her performance in The Fighter. Her one-woman campaign proved successful.

- Independent

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