Writers strike means less glitz for Globes

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- The Golden Globes, the ceremony known for getting Hollywood's awards season off to a rollicking start, will be reduced to a news conference Sunday by the writers strike and will likely draw picket lines and lack star power.

Despite the revamped ceremony announced Monday by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Screen Actors Guild said it was encouraging its members to skip the show in support of the two-month walkout by the Writers Guild of America.

"The WGA informed us they will picket the event on Sunday," the actors guild said in a statement.

Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West, said union leaders were uncertain if they still would picket outside the Golden Globes since they were unclear about what form the awards announcement would take.

"I would say an awards show in news conference clothing would still be picketed, but I just don't know if it's been definitively decided," Verrone said.

As he arrived at Monday's Critics' Choice Awards, George Clooney said he belongs to six unions and would not cross any picket lines.

Later, as he made a presentation, Clooney said, "Our hope is that all of the players involved will lock themselves in a room and not come out until they finish. We want this to be done."

Nikky Blonsky, also on the red carpet, said she was undecided about whether to attend the revised Golden Globes, where she is a nominee for "Hairspray."

"The writers are the backbone of the business, so we don't want to lose them in any way," she said.

The press association, which owns the Globes, issued a bleak statement about the ceremony that was to have showcased the likes of nominees Angelina Jolie and Denzel Washington.

"We are all very disappointed that our traditional awards ceremony will not take place this year and that millions of viewers worldwide will be deprived of seeing many of their favorite stars celebrating 2007's outstanding achievements in motion pictures and television," association president Jorge Camara said.

"We take some comfort, however, in knowing that this year's Golden Globe Award recipients will be announced on the date originally scheduled," he said in a statement.

Besides Jolie and Washington, this year's nominees include such other A-listers as Clooney, Tom Hanks, Daniel Day-Lewis, Keira Knightley, Cate Blanchett and Johnny Depp.

Among the nominated films are "There Will Be Blood," "American Gangster" and "Sweeney Todd."

But faced with a potential celebrity vacuum because of the picket line, the association and NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker had to devise another approach for the Globes broadcast.

The association will forgo any network payment -- reported to be $5 million -- for the broadcast, said a person close to the show who was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity. But NBC will have exclusive electronic rights to the show and will be able to sell advertising for it, the person said.

Although other TV media won't be given access, print outlets will, according to the agreement between NBC and the association, the person said.

The developments stand as an ominous sign for the Academy Awards, which are scheduled to air Feb. 24 on ABC. The writers guild refused to grant waivers for its members to work on the Oscars or the Globes.

Disrupting the awards show season, a huge promotional showcase for the entertainment industry, is one way the guild can flex its power and attempt to bring producers back to the table to resume talks that collapsed Dec. 7.

Oscar broadcast producer Gil Cates has vowed there will be a televised show, one way or another.

The writers strike, which began Nov. 5, has broad implications for the way Hollywood does business. Whatever deal is struck by writers on the key issue of payment for projects offered on the Internet could affect talks with actors and directors, whose contracts expire in June.

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