LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar organizers on Wednesday unveiled a tough new set of rules that cracks down on the types of events Academy Award voters can attend before making their picks for the world's top film awards.
The new rules are meant to help create a more level playing field for nominated movies, actors and actresses by curbing the wining and dining that takes place for members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences ahead of the awards.
"These campaign regulations play an important role in protecting the integrity of the Academy Awards process and the distinction of the Oscar," Academy president Tom Sherak said in a statement.
The key change is that after nominations are announced on January 24, Academy members can only attend screenings of movies, but not a party or event if there is no screening.
That means many dinners and gatherings where performers, producers and others are on hand to chat with Academy members and drum up support are now off limits. In the past, those events have been key to promoters looking for votes.
After the nominations are announced, Academy members can still attend screenings and cast and crew members can be on hand for question-and-answer sessions, but there can be no accompanying reception with food and drinks.
Additionally, there are no restrictions on the total number of screenings of a particular movie, but no person from the film can participate in more than two panel discussions.
Prior to the nominations there are no restrictions, and events can include food and drinks.
In recent years, Oscar campaigns have increasingly become important to cut through the clutter of numerous movies competing for awards because with those honors there is prestige that can boost ticket sales and DVD revenues.
But the campaigns can cost studios and producers thousands of dollars, leaving to some complaints that moviemakers with money have an upper hand during Hollywood's award season, which culminates with the Oscars.
The upcoming awards ceremony takes place on February 26.
The Academy also hopes to reduce the number of DVD "screeners" sent to members that allows them to watch movies at home. Organizers still permit the distribution of screeners, but with restrictions on packaging and promotional material.
Digital downloads of movies are now acceptable too, but the Academy is again emphasizing that watching the films in theaters remains its preferred choice.
"Above all, we want Academy members to see movies as they were meant to be seen, in a theatrical setting," Sherak said. scheduled to take place on February 26.
(Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Zorianna Kit)