LOS ANGELES For the first time since the Oscars moved to TV in the early 1950s, studios will be able to advertise movies during the telecast of the 81st annual Academy Awards.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences had long banned movie advertising out of concern that it might look as if studios were influencing the outcome of the awards, but the board of governors voted this week, after listening to the recommendations of a committee charged with studying the issue, to open up the show to movie ads -- albeit with plenty of restrictions.
"With the criteria that the committee recommended in place, it offers us a further way to celebrate the movies, which is what the show is all about," Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said. "And it is a way of adding some fun, creative and exciting content to the evening."
That notion of celebrating the movies also dovetails with the stated goal of this year's producing team, Laurence Mark and Bill Condon, who hope to turn the Feb. 22 broadcast into a larger look at the year in movies that goes beyond just the nominated films.
Although the Oscars have suffered ratings declines in recent years, the program still attracts plenty of advertisers. The opportunity to promote upcoming movies -- particularly summer tent-poles -- is sure to appeal to the studios, which already use the Super Bowl broadcast to unveil new ads. And just as there are viewers who watch the Super Bowl simply for those ads, previews of highly anticipated summer movies also could lure more eyeballs to the Oscarcast.
Studios, however, will have to jump through a number of hoops.
In order to maintain an arm's length between the competing films and the ads themselves, the spots can't promote any of the nominated movies -- as well as any prequels or sequels to the nominees -- whether they be narrative features, animated films or documentaries. Movies in current release also will be verboten, with only movies that are set to open during the last week of April or later allowed.
Each distributor will be permitted one spot each. Only one spot, whether 30- or 60-seconds, will be allowed during each commercial break. And each spot can promote only one film and not do double-duty by hyping several titles.
Finally, the spots can't invoke the words "Oscar" or "Academy Award," so don't look for any ad trumpeting "from the Academy Award-winning director."