Org eager to grow stature of awards

Broadcast Film Critics Assn. president Joey Berlin knows his organization’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards show still runs far behind the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s Golden Globes in the public’s consciousness. But Berlin believes the awareness gap is narrowing, and that parity is close at hand.

They’re the foreign press, and we’re the American and Canadian press,” Berlin says. “We have three times as many voting members who are regularly seen and read. It’s only logical that we be on equal footing.”

With the 15th edition of the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards (the first since its name changed from Critics’ Choice Awards) set for tonight, the BFCA finds itself continuing to strive for that equal footing. The group added eight categories to its kudofest this year, mostly tech, to “model its categories more closely after those of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

It’s not an exact match, Berlin notes, adding that the BFCA will keep its unique categories — best action movie, young actress/actor — that reflect the group’s “nature as a populist organization.”

It has added those categories, but it’s still closer to the Golden Globes than it is to the Oscars,” Turner Classic Movies host and BFCA member Ben Mankiewicz says of the show. “You get the feeling, true or not, that the stars are closer to their true selves here than at the Oscars. The presence of alcohol always helps.”

The group has also moved its ceremony this year, shifting from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to the Hollywood Palladium, which was remodeled in late 2008.

I think it’s terrific any time a venue holds a hint of Hollywood dash of the past,” says BFCA member Ray Pride, a columnist for website Movie City News.

Adds KTLA-TV entertainment anchor Sam Rubin: “Movie fans can relate to ‘Hollywood’ better than Santa Monica. It’s just another sign of growth for the awards.”

Can the CCMAs continue to grow? The event’s three-year contract with VH1 expires after this year’s ceremony. In the decade it has been televised, the show has bopped between E!, the WB, back to E! and then to its current deal with VH1. This year, MTV will simulcast the red-carpet preshow, and Berlin says he would love to reup with the MTV networks.

The focus now is to put on the greatest show,” Berlin says. “That will be our calling card for the next deal.”

Certainly, there is no lack of ambition among the membership. From its 1995 founding by Berlin and Rod Lurie (who left the group — and the profession — for a filmmaking career), the BFCA has sought to gain respect for its television and radio reviewers, using the Globes telecast as a model for their own awards event.

The ratings have never approached the Globes’ — an audience of 649,000 watched the show last year on VH1 — but stars do show up for an evening that’s strategically staged on the same weekend as the Globes.

The timing is certainly a factor,” Berlin says, “but I think we’ve established our own unique identity, too. It takes time to become an institution. We’re getting there.”

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