Unglued Globes give up gala

Skimpy show could affect b.o., Oscars

A dramatically scaled-down Golden Globes might do more than just put a somber face on the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s winter rite: It could set the tone for an upcoming skirmish over the Oscars while also dinging the films that benefit from the Globes.

The game of hardball that NBC and the WGA have played in the Globes kerfuffle could become the template for how ABC and the Academy respond to the WGA over the telecast of the Oscars.

So far, both ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have been silent about how they will approach the Feb. 24 Oscar ceremony, though the announcement of the Oscar nominations on Jan. 22 might force their hands.

"They can't be silent much longer," said one exec.

Awards experts around Hollywood noted that the Academy has several advantages in trying to get leverage with the WGA, with whom it could potentially seek a waiver.

The group is a bigger organization, with a lot more perceived clout than the HFPA.

And unlike the Globes, Oscars negotiations could go more smoothly because AMPAS would negotiate directly with the guilds without the potentially complicating involvement of a third-party producer.

Meanwhile, the effect on the films of a scaled-back Globes presentation began to sink in around town.

An appearance on the Globes telecast — which is traditionally watched by as many as 20 million viewers in the U.S. — tends to thrust a movie into the spotlight, bolstering its chances for more boxoffice and possibly even Oscar wins.

"Getting on the Golden Globes is critical to getting a movie more business," said veteran Oscar strategist Tony Angelotti.

The PR maven said that while he didn't think the effect on voters would be significant, he noted that the Globes' ability to give a movie publicity helped it stay in theaters during a critical period.

And while ballots for Oscar noms are due Jan. 12, the day before the Globes telecast, the lack of exposure for any given nominee on the show could have a trickle-down effect on the next round of voting.

It's impossible to know which pics will feel the greatest impact. But movies like "Juno," "Sweeney Todd" and "The Great Debaters" were cited around town as films that could have used the Globes for extra octane. All were December releases that are still in theaters, and all had been relying on awards-season word-of-mouth to drive ticket sales.

DreamWorks' Marvin Levy noted that "Sweeney Todd," for instance, would normally get a lot of "free shots" as cameras spotlighted talent associated with its noms in major categories, as well as clips from the film. "You're looking at a movie that's nominated for several major awards, not to mention all the close-ups of the stars."

A Focus Features rep said that it was still calculating the effects of the modified Globes on its nominees. The studio's "Atonement" garnered seven noms, the most of any film.

How much of an effect the weakened Globes will have on boxoffice and the Oscars is hard to determine, experts said, because it amounted to an extrapolation from something that didn't happen.

"It's like a costly holding penalty at a critical moment of a football game," said one publicist. "You don't know how much it would have made a difference if it wasn't called. But a lot of people will assume the worst."