Yanks eye Atlantic crossing for BAFTAs

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UPDATED 3:45 p.m. PT Monday, Feb. 4, 2008

Hollywood will be putting on awards show bling and donning designer gowns this year after all -- in the U.K.

It seems that the darkening of the Golden Globes and the threat that hangs over the Oscars because of the writers strike has helped put Britain's upcoming British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards more visibly than ever on Hollywood's radar.

Amid a dismal red carpet season, there is every likelihood that more stars will be heading across the Atlantic for the BAFTAs on Feb. 10 than might have been anticipated.

"We have always enjoyed a healthy level of support from the studios, with an average of over 80% of nominees attending in recent years," BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry says. "The tangible difference this year was that inquiries about the ceremony came well ahead of our nominations announcement, so, earlier than usual. It's not a sudden interest. The awards' profile has risen in recent years domestically and internationally, particularly since the date change in 2001 brought the ceremony before the Oscars, but there's no doubting the extra interest in this year's."

She adds: "We have an encouraging number of confirmations thus far. We continue to work with the studios to free up nominees' schedules, enabling them to attend right up to the day of the ceremony."

The strong likelihood of a bigger-than-ever turnout of Hollywood celebs is expected to boost numbers for E! Entertainment's exclusive coverage of the event, hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

"We've watched the BAFTA Awards grow year after year, and we now believe it has grown into an event that matters a great deal to all of the major movie studios and A-list celebrities," says Kevin MacLellan, president of Comcast International Media Group, the overseas sales arm of the cabler that owns E! "Each year, the turnout of Hollywood stars has grown substantially."

The U.S. studios have become far more aware of how important boxoffice results are overseas, MacLellan says. "It's especially important when you take into account that E!'s 'Live From the (BAFTAs) Red Carpet' will air in over 165 million households worldwide." BBC America, which now reaches 60 million homes in the U.S., will broadcast  the actual show.

As for the celebrities expected to make the trip, they can anticipate the full VIP treatment.

Says Berry: "The Academy, its partners and London as a city embrace the attendees -- be it in the parties and dinners thrown in the capital around the awards, the exceptional styling available to all nominees, the hospitality they receive at the capital's hotels or the huge reception they receive from the British public, and the broadcasters and press, on the red carpet at the Royal Opera House."
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