Oscars: Academy Cracks Down on Awards Season Partying

Oscar Statues - H 2016
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

As part of its annual review of eligibility rules and campaign regulations, the Academy is prohibiting social events that could be "reasonably perceived to unduly influence members."

As part of its annual review of its rules and campaign regulations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is cracking down on fancy lunches and dinners that could be perceived as influencing Academy members’ votes.

The Academy’s board of governors, at its meeting on June 28, approved several changes, announced today, that affect both awards campaigning and how movies qualify for Oscars.

While the Academy allows post-screening parties under certain circumstances, a new campaign regulation, announced today, states that “Academy members may not be invited to attend any non-screening event, party or dinner that is reasonably perceived to unduly influence members or undermine the integrity of the vote.” The Academy sternly warned that “members who fail to comply with this regulation will be subject to a one-year suspension of membership for first-time violations and expulsion for subsequent violations.”

The new regulation appears to forbid the sort of swank lunches, cocktail parties and dinners that event planners like Peggy Siegal, Andrew Saffir, Darin Pfeiffer and Colleen Camp host in New York and Los Angeles during awards season, inviting filmmakers and talent from films in awards contention to mix and mingle with social influencers, media types and assorted Academy members.

The Academy also is making it tougher to promote songs and scores looking for recognition in the music categories. In 2014, the Academy instituted a regulation that said music branch members could not attend any special live performance of an eligible song unless that performance was attached to a screening. That was intended to address the proliferation of special concerts that had taken place earlier that year. But now the Academy is tightening up that rule, and screening-concert combos are also off limits. As the regulation now states, “Music branch members may not be invited to or attend any screening, non-screening event or concert that includes a live performance of music eligible for nominations.”

How that blanket prohibition will work in practice remains to be seen: It would obviously preclude a special concert or party held specifically for Academy members, but in its broadest reading it would also seem to create problems for Academy members attending awards dinners at which an Oscar hopeful makes an appearance — like last January’s Producers Guild Awards at which Lady Gaga performed her nominated song “Till It Happens to You.”

Turning to its rules governing Oscar eligibility, the Academy added a further requirement for feature-length films, which were already required to complete a seven-day theatrical run in Los Angeles. The rule now stipulates that during that theatrical run, a movie must screen three times daily, with at least one screening beginning between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. The new requirement is designed to eliminate movies that in the past have made token qualifying runs, sometimes screening just once daily.

In one category, though, the Academy actually opened up eligibility requirements a bit. In the documentary feature category, the geographical area in which a New York qualifying run must take palace was previously limited to Manhattan, but now it has been expanded to include all of the city’s boroughs — good news for Brooklyn’s hipsters.