LOS ANGELES – With so much riding on an Oscar win, studios spend millions trying to convince Academy Awards (search) voters that their films are the best.
But the big-money business of Oscar campaigning has Academy officials concerned, so this year they've cut the time between nominations and the awards ceremony in half — a move some filmmakers greeted with relief.
"I think it's far better for the awards and for all concerned," said "Master and Commander" director Peter Weir.
Oscar nominations were announced Jan. 27; the 76th Annual Academy Awards will take place Feb. 29.
Though industry insiders are betting that "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" (search) will take the top prize, cutting down on the hype gives other films like "Master and Commander" a chance.
Some contend that during the longer campaigning season big-budget films had a much bigger advantage because studios were willing to shell out big bucks for a seemingly endless media blitz.
"That extra period of time allowed more money to be spent for those who could afford it," said Weir. "It was, in a sense, a little unfair that perhaps the person with the most money could create the most excitement."
Last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued tougher rules to curtail combative campaigning, threatening studios with being tossed out of the academy if they broke the rules.
Studios blanket the industry with ads, DVD and videotape copies of films. There are also elegant invitation-only screenings attended by the films' stars and directors -- technically barred by academy rules, but legal if they're held under the auspices of one of the professional guilds or hosted by a third party unaffiliated by the film.
The academy last year also added a rule prohibiting quotes from other academy members in movie ads. Distributor Miramax vexed competitors before last year's Oscars by running newspaper ads that reprinted an opinion column by Oscar-winning director Robert Wise that praised nominee Martin Scorsese for "Gangs of New York."
This year, the little guys in the race have a lot to gain. "Lost in Translation" (search) came out on video Tuesday but will also continue to play in theaters, its makers banking on the fact that Golden Globe wins and Oscar nods could translate into fresh interest and big audiences.
"It's just great because it brings more attention to it and maybe more people will see it," said "Lost in Translation" director Sofia Coppola.
Having less time between Oscar nominations and the ceremony itself also means filmmakers can get back to work on new projects sooner -- a point that's especially meaningful to "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson, who spent more than five years on the trilogy.
"We've all got to get on with our careers," Jackson said. "We've got films to make."
In the case of Jackson, who took home the Golden Globe (search ) for best director, that means making the movie "King Kong" next.
And shortening that in-between time also cuts back on the "dragging it out" phenomenon that used to characterize Hollywood awards season.
"I'm not sure whether it helps or hinders films, but it's much more enjoyable," Jackson said. "If I were to think of the Oscars being at the end of March like they used to be, it just seems like such a long time."
Fox News' Mike Waco and Catherine Donaldson-Evans contributed to this report.