Efforts by industry insiders to salvage next Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards festivities imploded Monday in a complicated scenario that mirrors the breakdown in trust and communication that has fueled the Writers Guild of America’s 11-week-old strike against Hollywood’s majors.
By Monday evening, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s 65th annual kudos had been downscaled from a gala dinner ceremony and live telecast to an hourlong news conference at the Beverly Hilton, to be covered live (taped delayed for the West Coast) by NBC News, with only journos in attendance — and most likely with WGA pickets outside.
The after-parties that traditionally make the Globes a fun night of event-hopping were also scrapped. NBC Universal-Focus, Warner Bros. and HBO cancelled their events, with Fox Searchlight and the Weinstein Co. expected to do likewise.
The Globes outlook had seemed significantly brighter just hours earlier, after a weekend of brainstorming and wrangling by NBC U’s top brass, the HFPA, Globes ceremony producer Dick Clark Prods. and a handful of top publicists who hoped to save some of the celebratory and PR value of the event on behalf of their clients.
Faced with the promise of WGA pickets lining up outside the Hilton and a no-show of top nominees, NBC U prexy-CEO Jeff Zucker had the idea during the weekend to shift the paradigm of the telecast to an NBC News special covering the announcement of the winners.
NBC had leaned on the HFPA to postpone the event, but the press org was adamant about sticking with Sunday to maintain the Globes’ position as a precursor to the Academy Awards race.
Once NBC and the HFPA settled on the news conference format, NBC was no longer concerned with whether talent turned out or pickets raised a ruckus outside the Hilton. NBC U execs made the decision to scrap their after-party during the weekend, insiders said.
But the HFPA, Dick Clark Prods. and the PR reps had their respective incentives to maintain the red-carpet procession and the parties. To ensure that talent would show up, the HFPA needed the guild’s assurance that it would not picket if the telecast was limited to an hourlong news spec.
Lawyers for Dick Clark Prods. and the WGA conferred multiple times Monday morning in an effort to reach such a detente. Dick Clark Prods. even broached the subject of whether the guild would picket if it sought to produce a clip reel or some component of red-carpet coverage to accompany the NBC News press conference coverage.
NBC and the HFPA had previously told journos to expect an announcement regarding the Globes at around 1 p.m., but it was delayed in the hopes that all sides could agree on a compromise to allow a bit of the celebration to go on.
The emails, phone calls and faxes went back and forth until shortly after 1 p.m., when Internet reports — later disputed — surfaced that NBC had plans to fill out its Sunday primetime sked with three hours of Globes-related specials preceding and following the 6 p.m. PT announcement of winners.
Those midday Internet reports deeply angered WGA brass. NBC insiders acknowledged that the Peacock was keeping open its options for supplemental programming but that they were not as elaborate or detailed as the reports asserted.
“Golden Globes scam” was the subject line of a Monday email that WGA West exec director David Young sent to his counterparts at SAG. The actors guild, which has been supportive of the WGA, last week helped put the nail in the coffin of a traditional Globes telecast by asserting that none of the more than 70 actor nominees was prepared to cross a picket line to attend the show (Daily Variety, Jan. 7).
Young’s email, sent around 2:30 p.m., informed SAG leaders Doug Allen and Pamm Fair that the Globes compromise proposal was a “scam” and that the WGA would picket the event. HFPA leaders and others involved in Monday’s diplomatic mission tried to straighten out the situation with WGA and NBC, but positions quickly hardened.
NBC execs are enraged at being in the crosshairs of the WGA the past two weeks given the Globes imbroglio and the pressure the guild has put on NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” for resuming production without scribes. For weeks, the HFPA and Dick Clark Prods. sought a waiver or interim agreement with the guild to allow the Globes to proceed as usual, but the WGA refused.
“It is a blatant ploy to get actors and other talent to attend the event,” Young wrote in his email to SAG execs. “It is the Globes under the name of a news conference. We have informed Dick Clark Prods. that we will picket the event on Sunday.”
SAG, in turn, sent an alert about the WGA’s decision to the group of PR firms that had warned NBC Universal regarding the resolve of their clients not to cross the picket lines for the Globes in a letter sent to NBC U’s Zucker on Friday. Once the praiseries got the word from SAG on Monday that WGA pickets were a certainty, the fallout was swift. Stars were certain to stay away, the studio parties were scuttled, and shortly after 4 p.m., the HFPA issued a statement confirming what most people in town already knew.
“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,” said HFPA prexy Jorge Camara. “We take some comfort, however, in knowing that this year’s Golden Globe Award recipients will be announced on the date originally scheduled.”
Under normal circumstances, the Globes kudocast is understood to bring in about $15 million-$20 million in ad revenue for the Peacock, which pays the HFPA a license fee of about $6 million for the rights. This year, the HFPA will forgo that fee, while NBC will sell ad time in the news conference and likely have supplemental Globes programming on Sunday.
WGA West prexy Patric Verrone declined to comment on the specific circumstances seen Monday, saying he had been engaged all day with other guild business. But on the general issue of the disruption caused by the strike, Verrone cited the guild’s recent progress in cutting interim pacts with small entities and put the blame squarely on the majors, who broke off the last round of negotiations on Dec. 7.
“I’m hoping that they see the collapse of awards season and our ability to make interim deals with other companies as a sign that we are serious, and they need to get back to the table with us,” he said.