Academy Awards Organizers Insist Show Will Go On

Academy Awards organizers insisted Tuesday their show will go on, though some say the Oscar broadcast could evaporate after the writers strike shut down the Golden Globes ceremony.

Without special agreements with the Writers Guild of America, awards planners cannot hire union members to work on their shows, and such major telecasts would be the target of pickets.

With the Screen Actors Guild in lockstep with writers, nominees and other celebrities would have stayed away from Sunday's Globes. The same prospect now hangs over the Oscars.

"No matter what anybody says, if the WGA goes on strike and SAG is in support, then there's no Oscar show. It's as simple as that," said Harvey Weinstein, whose former company Miramax was a frequent Oscar winner and who now runs the Weinstein Co.

He said it's more likely the guild ultimately would agree to let its writers work on the Oscars.

But Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, said the union would turn down any request from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its members to work on the Oscars.

Gil Cates, producer of the Oscar broadcast, said the academy will put on its Oscar show Feb. 24 as planned — with or without the writers.

"We are going to do it," Cates said. "I can't elaborate on how we're going to do it, because I don't want anybody to deal with the elaboration in a way that might impact its success."

The guild went on strike Nov. 5 over writers' shares of potential profits from programming on the Internet and other new media.

While the union has reached independent deals with David Letterman's production company and Tom Cruise's United Artists Films for writers to go back to work, negotiations with the bulk of Hollywood management have been frozen for a month.

Talks between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off Dec. 7.

The strike has idled some TV programs and delayed a handful of big-screen films. Forcing high-profile awards shows off the air provides added leverage for the guild, depriving fans who like to watch the fashion and celebrity gloss of Hollywood's big parties.

Among annual telecasts, the Oscars run second only to the Super Bowl in viewership.

"The message we want to send is to bring the conglomerates back to the table to negotiate a deal, and then not only the awards season but the television season and the great film slate all comes back," guild leader Verrone said.

The producers alliance declined to comment Tuesday, said spokesman Jesse Hiestand.

Unable to reach a side deal with writers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Monday canceled the televised Globes dinner, typically a loose and rowdier night out for the stars than the Oscars.

An hourlong news conference on NBC, the host network to the Globes ceremony, will be substituted.

Calls and e-mails to a Globes spokesman were not immediately returned Tuesday seeking details on the precise format.

The news conference will consist of film clips, with awards probably announced by on-air talent from television news and entertainment shows, said Globes spokesman Stephen LoCascio. No nominees or other stars are expected to show up, he said.

The Globes' Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement to Steven Spielberg has been postponed until next year.

Parties by NBC Universal, the Weinstein Co., E! Entertainment and other outfits after the Globes also have been canceled.

Oscar nominations come out Jan. 22, nine days after the Globes.

But Sid Ganis, academy president, said: "We're not panicking. We're preparing our show, and we're moving forward."

Cates, the telecast's producer, thinks the Oscar show is "the most unique show on American television."

"It has been on through wars and through presidential assassination attempts," he said. "It would be shameful if the Oscars were in any way impacted."

Oscar planners have held out hope that the strike might be settled in time to let the show go on as planned. Writing on the ceremony typically would not begin until after the nominations, since "so much of the show is predicated on what those nominees are," academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said.

The strike has cost the Los Angeles area $1.4 billion in lost wages, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

Cancellation of the Globes means an additional $80 million hit for local caterers, party planners, limousine companies, stylists and other support workers, Kyser said. If the Oscar ceremony fell through, it would add $130 million more in losses for the local economy, he said.

Golden Globe-winning films typically get a publicity boost that can mean millions more at the box office during the run-up to the Oscars. Studios still will be trumpeting their Globe wins, but without the televised ceremony, they lose what amounts to a three-hour infomercial advertising the movies.

Scrapping the Oscar telecast would be a huge loss for the academy and ABC given the millions of dollars in advertising income it generates.

If they dropped the telecast and held a private ceremony, Oscar organizers probably could avoid pickets by writers and ensure that celebrities would turn up.

Yet forging ahead with a ceremony that stars might boycott could backfire on the academy, said Tom O'Neil, a columnist for awards Web site

"The Oscars are more than just an awards show. It's Hollywood's family reunion," O'Neil said. "If they have to choose between the honorees in person or the TV show, and they choose the TV show, the message they send is it's not about us getting together and hugging and celebrating our greatest work together. It's really about the TV show and the revenue it brings in."

For all the economic impact the strike is having on awards season, there's also a personal side. Weinstein had been excited about the company he would have been keeping at the Globes.

"Here is my dream table. I dreamed about this table, like since I was a kid. The greatest table of all time," said Weinstein, whose Golden Globe dinner companions would have included new wife Georgina Chapman, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett, Oprah Winfrey and Clint Eastwood.

"So Clint, Denzel, Oprah and Cate at my table. My nominees. I'll be at McDonald's instead with my kids."

Weinstein's "The Great Debaters," directed by Washington and on which Winfrey was a producer, is nominated for best drama at the Globes. The Weinstein Co. contenders also include the Bob Dylan tale "I'm Not There," which earned Blanchett a supporting-actress nomination, and the Iraq War drama "Grace Is Gone," for which Eastwood received two nominations for musical score and song.

Along with such veterans of Hollywood's awards season, there are newcomers such as "Hairspray" star Nikki Blonsky and "Juno" star Ellen Page, both with Globe nominations, who will miss out on their first major awards party.

"I'm upset for Ellen and for all the first-time nominees to not get to experience what that's like," said "Juno" co-star Allison Janney. "I'm sad for them, but I think we all support the writers and stand behind them. I hope they get it settled before the Oscars, because we want Ellen to get her Oscar."