/ 14 January 2008

Golden Globe winners are also losers

If a movie wins a Golden Globe, but there’s no ceremony, does the prize still count?

That’s the issue faced by the Hollywood studios behind such films as Atonement and Sweeney Todd, which lost their moments of glory on Sunday to the Hollywood writers strike.

Globe organisers were forced to cancel their usual NBC broadcast after the actors union said it would boycott the event in deference to striking writers. A 30-minute news conference was held instead, with the winners announced by a revolving cast of TV gossip show reporters.

That’s a poor promotional platform for films that would have benefited from primetime exposure during an alcohol-fuelled, three-hour broadcast packed with celebrities.

”Certainly it takes away the visibility from us and everybody, which is too bad,” said Jack Foley, president of distribution at General Electric’s Focus Features, which released best-drama winner Atonement. ”It’s a big, huge commercial. There are no two ways about it.”

Last year, 20-million viewers tuned in to the show, and winners such as The Queen and Babel used the Globes as a springboard to expand nationally the following weekend.

Atonement, which led the field with seven nominations, has earned a modest $25-million after six weeks in release, and is now playing in 950 theatres. (By contrast, box office champ The Bucket List is in 2 911 theatres.)

Double winners

Atonement, which also won for Italian composer Dario Marianelli’s score, was one of four double-winners. The others were the bloody musical Sweeney Todd, the French-language drama The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and the violent thriller No Country For Old Men.

Foley said it would be vital for movies to trumpet their Globes successes in newspaper and TV ads, especially since the following Monday is a holiday in the United States, and Oscar nominations will be announced the day after.

DreamWorks Pictures’ Sweeney Todd was named best comedy/musical, and star Johnny Depp took the best actor prize in that category. Director Tim Burton’s musical about a vengeful London barber has earned about $44-million to date.

A spokesperson for the Viacom-owned studio hoped the media frenzy at the news conference would yield plenty of publicity for the movie. It will expand next weekend by a few hundred theatres from its current 1 323 tally.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, released by Walt Disney’s Miramax Films, has earned almost $2-million after seven weeks in 75 theatres. It won for best foreign film, and Julian Schnabel was named best director.

Miramax also released No Country For Old Men, for which Spanish actor Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor. Its directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, won the screenplay award. With earnings of $46,8-million, it is the Coens’ most successful release, surpassing O Brother, Where Art Thou?

While there is inevitably a lot of overlap between the Globe and Oscar nominees, the Globes have not foreshadowed the best-picture Oscar winner since 2004, when Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King topped both ceremonies.

The Globes are determined by about 90 foreign journalists, and the Oscars by 6 500 industry professionals. Oscar winners will be announced on February 24, assuming the writers strike does not take down Hollywood’s biggest night as well. – Reuters