MPAA anti-piracy move forces rethink in marketing to awards judges

LOS ANGELES: In a move that has film marketers and film publicists seriously rethinking their strategies for the upcoming awards season, the MPAA and major studios announced an agreement last week that prevents advance copies of movies from being sent to awards judges and other industry insiders in what is described as an anti-piracy initiative.

LOS ANGELES: In a move that has film marketers and film publicists seriously rethinking their strategies for the upcoming awards season, the MPAA and major studios announced an agreement last week that prevents advance copies of movies from being sent to awards judges and other industry insiders in what is described as an anti-piracy initiative.

With the Oscars already scheduled to occur a month earlier than usual, the new rule is putting extra stress on publicity teams tasked with getting their films in front of judges. Many film PR teams have come to rely on the convenience of home viewing in recent years.

While few publicists will admit to devising alternate strategies or dare to criticize the studios or MPAA policy, most agree that the rule will mean an increase in advertising, and more invitation-only screenings for awards voters. It may also mean more high-profile events and parties meant to lure reluctant judges to screenings, despite recent rules meant to curb such campaigning.

"It's really going to increase the competition for the [voters'] attention, and they're going to have to figure out new and innovative ways to get their message out," said one entertainment insider. "They're going to have to get people to actually attend the screenings now."

Each year, studios mail out tens of thousands of DVD and VHS copies of films in the fall as part of awards campaigns. In recent years, however, many of those award "screeners" have found their way onto illegal file-sharing networks online, or have been used to make pirated hard copies. This year, studios are getting tough on piracy, going so far as to institute metal detectors and bag searches at media and industry screenings to prevent illegal taping.

Nevertheless, some speculate that independent distributors such as ThinkFilm (Spellbound) and IFC Films could actually benefit if they choose to ignore the rule, which they are not bound by since they are not members of the MPAA.

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