New Oscars campaign rules = awards season Armageddon?

While everyone is busy weighing how the new campaign rules may affect the Oscars, they are strangely overlooking the catastrophic result the changes might have on the whole awards season. It’s possible that they could land like an atom bomb in Oscarland, wiping out a lot of interest in the SAG, DGA, WGA, BAFTA and other precursor prizes.

In recent years Oscar season has been comprised of more than 500 Q&A screenings conducted on both U.S. coasts featuring the films’ stars, directors, writers and crafts folks chatting chummily with guild members and other industry insiders. Presumably, that’s because the studios really, really care a lot about winning their awards, but do they? Up until now it’s been against Oscar rules to campaign directly to academy members with Q&As. Many cynics believe that the explosion of Q&As – which comprise the heart and soul of awards season – was really just a way around those rules. That is, studio execs will gladly spend more than $4,000 per screening if it’s likely that at least a few Oscar voters might be in the audience mix.

But now that the studios can hold screenings specifically for Oscar voters, will they bother spending more than a million dollars to conduct the hundreds of other screenings? If not, will that injure the prestige of the guild awards?

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Let’s face it, the guild awards are already facing dark days ahead in terms of their value as Oscar prophets. Very soon the academy will find an electronic way to conduct voting as soon as possible after Jan. 1. Thereafter, the guilds will no longer be able to jockey ahead of the Oscars and influence their outcome.

Academy chiefs have made it clear in recent years that they’re sick and tired of the Oscars merely rubber-stamping the guild awards. They want to rule awards season on their own. Now it looks like the combination of two things – their new campaign rules plus their move toward electronic voting – could have a huge effect on other film awards. Will it be catastrophic?

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