The glitterless Golden Globes provided the most visible and dramatic moment yet for the two-month Hollywood writers strike — but will it advance the union's cause?
With actors refusing to cross writers' threatened picket lines, Sunday's Globes were stripped of their excitement, NBC lost millions of dollars in ad revenue, and award winners were deprived of instant publicity that could provide a box-office bump.
Next month's Academy Awards could face the same fate.
As a result, "a lot of attention, and pressure will be brought to bear on the (studios) whether or not to stick to their position in regard to the negotiations," said Mike Asensio, a partner at the national law firm of Baker Hostetler and a specialist in labor law.
The studios left the bargaining table Dec. 7 and have refused to return until the writers take a half-dozen proposals off the table, including the unionization of reality show writers.
The writers guild said its refusal to let members work on the Globes and Oscars were aimed at getting the studios back to the bargaining table.
"We take no joy in seeing the Golden Globes put on this format," said Jeff Hermanson, the guild's assistant executive director. "We're as distressed as anyone at the cost this situation is imposing."
The guild also has to worry about keeping public sentiment on its side during job actions such as the one against the Globes, Asensio said.
The studio alliance said it had no comment on the Globes.
A key factor in play is the just-started negotiations between the studio alliance and the Directors Guild of America. A deal there could put pressure for the writers guild and the Screen Actors Guild to reach contract agreements with the studios. The actors contract expires in June.
On Sunday, the typically glitzy Globes ceremony was replaced by entertainment show anchors including Mary Hart reading off the names of winners in a Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom filled with reporters, publicists and technicians.
Reviews reflected the odd evening.
"For those of you who wisely spent the evening rearranging your sock drawers or watching your TiVo queues of reruns, it was a less than magical night," Mary McNamara wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
In The Washington Post, William Booth said the show had "all the excitement and drama of sorting mail."
Added Television Writer Frazier Moore of The Associated Press: "The Golden Globes awards telecast is usually a rollicking, star-studded party. This year's was more like a laundry list."
Honored films included the tragic romance "Atonement," the crime saga "No Country for Old Men," and the bloody musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," with series including "Mad Men" and "Damages" among the cable-dominated winners on the TV side.
While last year's full-blown Globes ceremony on NBC drew 20 million viewers, the estimated audience for Sunday's broadcast on the network was 5.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.
In contrast, the CBS miniseries "Comanche Moon" drew 16.6 million viewers against the Globes at 9 p.m. EST, while ABC's "Extreme Makeover" had 13.9 million. On Fox, the comedies "Family Guy" and "American Dad" averaged out to 10 million in the hourlong time slot.
NBC, which has earned $15 million-plus in the past from advertising revenues, was expected to reap significantly less this time around. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association lost out on its reported $6 million license fee from the network.
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For movie studios, the shrunken ratings meant a lost opportunity for instant promotion of their winning films.
"If a potential audience member reads about a Golden Globe win, that still is going to have some influence," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "But the combination of TV and winning an award is a great marketing tool — the glitz and glamour of the telecast, the memorable moments, combined with an actual win."
The Globes have an influence on ticket sales because they are a precursor to the Academy Awards, Dergarabedian said.
In a separate development, the writers guild announced it had reached an interim deal that would allow an independent studio, Media Rights Capital, to resume production. the deal was similar to those previously made with Worldwide Pants, which produces David Letterman's show.
The writers guild has struck other deals with United Artists and the Weinstein Co.