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New Oscar campaign rules could hurt other awards

September 26, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Oscars spotlightsOscar watchers are missing the big story when weighing the new campaign rules. They're looking only at how the changes will affect the Oscars, forgetting that the Academy Awards are part of a larger derby that begins in early December with the National Board of Review, followed by the film critics' awards, then the Golden Globes and guild laurels. The Oscars are just the finish line.

In the future, the new rules could trip up everything that comes earlier in the big race — and cause the smaller awards serious injury.

Currently, there are more than 500 Q&A screenings conducted on both coasts (plus more in Britain) as part of derby season. Technically, most are screenings held for guild members, critics' groups, industry leaders, etc., while the studios woo support for their awards. Most vulnerable in this group are the guild awards, which get a lot of attention, let's be honest, because they have enormous influence on the Oscars. Soon that probably won't be the case, however. Oscar leaders are investigating ways to employ electronic voting in the future so that balloting could occur as soon after Jan. 1 as possible. When that happens, the guild kudos won't be able to get out front and influence academy members.

Some cynics believe that the real reason that the studios stage so many Q&A screenings is because they're targeting guild members in the audience who might also be Oscar voters. Up until now, the studios were forbidden to stage Q&As specifically for academy members. Now that they can do so, will they care about the guild awards?

It's now possible that hundreds of these Q&A screenings could vanish during the next year or two, which would radically alter the essence of the annual Oscar race — and hurt the prestige of the smaller awards.

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— Tom O'Neil

Photo: Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

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