Air's out of the Golden Globes balloon

Once a gala, now a news conference


Here is the cold, hard reality of the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards that will be handed out Sunday at the Beverly Hilton: A lot of people are going to lose a lot of money.

Not only NBC, which could be forced to return $10 million-$15 million in ad revenue, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which will pocket a license fee much less than its usual $5 million check, but also dressmakers, party planners, caterers and limo drivers, to name a few.

Then there's the unquantifiable effect on the studios.

Several movies that most needed the Globes will feel the pinch. Such heavily nominated films as "Atonement" and "Sweeney Todd" have done respectable but not blowout domestic numbers -- $19 million and $39 million, respectively -- and if history is any predictor, they would have seen a spike after their clips and stars got Globes airtime. Ditto for Paul Thomas Anderson's oilman epic "There Will Be Blood," which is just beginning to widen.

Lauded performers who wouldn't normally be high on awards season or entertainment media radars such as Casey Affleck ("The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford") and Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") could have seen career boosts from red-carpet exposure.

Not now.

A number of possibilities, including the total cancellation of NBC's telecast or a postponement of the show and ceremony, had been considered before the hybrid gambit, with a frantic set of negotiations between the four interested parties (NBC, the HFPA, the WGA and Dick Clark Prods.) nearly leading to an agreement in the days leading up to the ceremony.

In the end, the WGA said no, and NBC said it would go ahead with a minimal telecast reimagined as a news division program in the hope that it could generate at least respectable viewership and pacify advertisers. Late in the week, Los Angeles' KNBC said it would telecast the East Coast feed at 6 p.m. (which is the actual time the event takes place); there's no need to delay a show for primetime if there really isn't a show to speak of.

Whether the scaled-back telecast will generate anything more than token interest in what is annually one of the more anticipated events on the Hollywood awards calendar is unclear. Given the sorry ratings of the People's Choice Awards earlier in the week on CBS, the outlook does not look bright.

This Globes in short represents the unfortunate reality of this jittery awards season: Joy and excitement are difficult to come by right now. The WGA on Thursday detonated its own non-televised show set for Feb. 9, and VH1 apparently toned down the Critics Choice Awards this month.

Yet for all that pessimism, winners will be named Sunday and Globes will be handed out, facts that the drama (or meta-drama) around the show shouldn't entirely obscure.

The Globe noms, announced Dec. 13, came complete this year with the usual assortment of surprises courtesy of an association that relishes the opportunity to keep the town guessing.

On the feature film side, Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage) got snubbed in all but the original score and song categories, as did the hits "Knocked Up" (Universal) and "Superbad" (Sony) among the comedy nominees.

The movie noms also were, well, steeped in blood: Not only is that the title of one of the seven (seven!) nominees in the drama category, even a musical -- DreamWorks/Paramount's "Sweeney Todd" -- is serving up buckets of it. Considering that and "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage), the Coen brothers' criminal saga "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax), the Russian mobster flick "Eastern Promises" (Focus) and "American Gangster" (Universal), there's a violent strain to the contenders.

It also is a year marked by decidedly unconventional fare in the musical/comedy category, including the stage-inspired mayhem of Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd," the cult hit "Across the Universe" (Sony), the Tom Hanks-Julia Roberts seriocomic effort "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal), the kitschy 1960s homage "Hairspray" (New Line) and the wry teen-pregnancy saga "Juno" (Fox Searchlight).

As for television, the day has officially arrived when cable has managed to surpass broadcast in generating the majority of attention from the Hollywood awards machine. The Globes cited 22 different cable projects while commercial broadcast found only 13 programs receiving nominations. This represents a major sea change.

Four of the six top drama series nominations come from cable, along with five of the seven lead dramatic actress noms and four of the five lead dramatic actor nods. Add it up and you get 13 of the 18 drama series and lead acting nominees falling to cable shows and their performers.

Beyond the sheer numbers, this past summer turned out to be cable's most successful ever in terms of launching quality original programming on the series front. It saw the debuts of AMC's "Mad Men," FX's "Damages," Showtime's "Californication" and TNT's "Saving Grace," which account for nine Globe noms among them. By contrast, only four were scooped up by shows that hit the air this fall on the broadcast nets, with those going to the ABC comedies "Pushing Daisies" and "Samantha Who?"

"All I have to say is, thank God for the Hollywood Foreign Press," FX president and GM John Landgraf said following the nominations announcement that included breakthrough attention for "Damages" and for "Riches."

"This organization has been not only a major boon to FX in our quest for excellence but to TV in general," he added.

Ray Richmond reported from Los Angeles. Steven Zeitchik reported from New York.