Oscar voters denied advance movie screening DVDs

In a move supposedly to curb the piracy of films, the Motion Picture Association of America has announced that major studios will no longer send out video copies of new movies in advance of the Academy Awards season.

Traditionally copies of new movies on DVD and videocassette, known as screeners, have been distributed by studios before the Academy Awards to people in the movie business who vote on potential award nominees. Screeners allow voters to watch the films at home instead of going to a theater or a screening room, and have been especially beneficial to smaller companies whose films are not as widely distributed as studio releases.

Jack Valenti, president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association, said the no-screener policy was to halt piracy of films and to avoid the kind of problems faced by the music industry, which is in turmoil partly because of the free downloading of music on the Internet.

Estimates are that 100,000 screeners are distributed each year to the 5,800 voters. “From these screeners last year, a lot of piracy popped up and some of it landed in Asia and Russia,” Valenti said in an interview with the Washington Post. “Counterfeit DVD’s were then sent flying all over the world.”

However, executives at some independent motion picture companies doubted the public reasoning for the screener ban. The Post quoted them as saying privately that the major studios were less interested in the piracy issue than in undercutting independent film companies who have consistently won recent Oscars.

For more information visit www.mpaa.org.

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