GLOBES SPIN TO A STANDSTILL

The Golden Globe awards, known more for their glamour and glitz than for the prestige of the awards themselves, had neither Sunday night as they were reduced to a perfunctory announcement of the winners by the hosts of several syndicated entertainment TV magazines. The awards are voted on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a small group of mostly part-time and freelance writers for overseas newspapers and magazines (none of whom announced any winners). The winners were not on hand for the announcements, abiding by directions from their unions not to cross picket lines of the Writers Guild of America, which had vowed to send strikers to the ceremonies in Beverly Hills en masse if the awards show was staged as usual. (Ironically the first winner announced Sunday night was Cate Blanchett, who won the supporting actress award for a film titled I'm Not There.) Sometimes regarded as a forecast of the Oscars, Sunday night's non-affair was only that in the sense that it raised the question of whether a similar fate would befall the equally glitzy but far more prestigious Academy Awards show, scheduled for February 24. As usual, the awards were spread over numerous films -- in order to curry favor with stars and publicists, according to some critics -- with Atonement, which was voted best film, receiving only one additional award -- for best original music. Some of the awards seemed to come out of left field and mirrored none that had come earlier. Contacted by the Associated Press, producer Richard Zanuck, whose Sweeney Todd won for best musical or comedy (beating the favorite, Juno), predicted that the strike will either be settled before the Oscars or that the WGA will grant a waiver for the show to take place. "I don't think they want to be responsible in bringing the most important event in the motion-picture industry each year down to its knees," he said. The WGA has maintained, however, that it is the studios who would be responsible for such an eventuality since they are the ones who broke off negotiations and continue to insist that they will not return to the talks until the union drops several demands regarding jurisdiction over reality and animated films and TV shows.

WILL GLOBES BOOST BOX OFFICE THIS YEAR?

Hollywood will now await word on whether the truncated Golden Globe awards "show" will have a significant impact at the box office. Generally speaking winners receive a modest spike in ticket sales during the weekend following the presentations. Writing in his Hollywood Today blog, veteran entertainment industry reporter Alex Ben Block predicted, "The bounce won't be the same. The box office won't be as big as if it might have been. And that is the point, from the writers' view. They want the companies to hurt, so they will come to the table. The writers have succeeded, but we can still lament the loss of the laughs from the annual Globe follies." And TV critic Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times concluded, "The strike was obviously the biggest winner of the night."

DIRECTORS OPEN TALKS WITH STUDIOS AND NETWORKS

The Directors Guild of America on Saturday opened negotiations for a new contract with the Writers Guild of America. A second meeting reportedly took place on Sunday and a third was due to take place today (Monday). The DGA announced that it planned to keep the negotiations confidential. The directors are said to have spent some $2 million on a study concerning potential earnings via Internet distribution that it hopes will be used as the basis of its negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Association. While many in Hollywood say they hope that a deal with the DGA will provide a template for a similar deal with the WGA, writers have pointed out that directors are paid more "up front" than writers and that they therefore do not depend on earnings from residuals as much as writers. In a joint statement the WGA and the Screen Actors Guild wished the DGA well, but added: "The DGA has to do what is best for its membership, but it is important to remember that they do not represent actors and writers."

AN OLDSTER WEEKEND AT BOX OFFICE

The pairing of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman produced better-than-expected results over the weekend as Warner Bros.' The Bucket List went into wide release with an estimated $19.5 million in ticket sales. According to preliminary figures, it edged out Sony/Screen Gems' First Sunday, which took in $19 million. The Fox Searchlight comedy Juno came in third with $14 million. It was one of those rare weekends when the teenage dating crowd did not control box-office results. "This was definitely a win for the older audience," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers, told the Associated Press.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. The Bucket List, $19.5 million; 2. First Sunday, $19 million; 3. Juno, $14 million; 4. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, $11.5 million; 5. Alvin and the Chipmunks, $9.1 million; 6. I Am Legend, $8.1 million; 7. One Missed Call, $6.1 million; 8. P.S. I Love You, $5 million; 9. The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie, $4.4 million; 10. Atonement, $4.3 million.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.