For decades, Hollywood has brushed off the Golden Globe Awards as a kind of collective inside joke, a fun, freewheeling party holding no grand importance. “That award is, no offense, worthless,” Ricky Gervais told the assembled crowd of stars while hosting the ceremony in 2016.
But in reality, for all the criticism long directed at the group that hands out the Globes — the tiny, secretive 86-member Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — the entertainment industry has become deeply invested in the awards. Millions of dollars are poured collectively into trying to win them and millions more flow from the prizes into such things as box office returns, publicists’ bonuses and boosted star salaries.
With NBC’s announcement Monday that the network will take the Globes off the air in 2022 after months of controversy sparked by a Feb. 21 Times investigation into the HFPA’s membership and financial and ethical practices, that entire economic ecosystem was under threat.
Many were left working out what it means for them. Though NBC said Monday that it is “hopeful” the telecast will return in 2023 if the HFPA executes its plans for reform, some are already contemplating an awards landscape without the Globes.
“If they go away, I don’t think anybody’s really going to lament that,” two-time Globe winner Matt Damon told the “Today” show Thursday. “I don’t think the world needs to mourn the death of an awards show.”
True, the world has bigger concerns than the fate of a single awards show. But at every level in Hollywood, from studio marketers and A-listers all the way to the bartenders who serve the cocktails at the famously boozy show, the financial fallout from the loss of the Globes will be enormous.
“I’m hard-pressed to envision any winners as a result of the Golden Globes’ demise,” said veteran publicist Tony Angellotti, who has worked on numerous Globes campaigns as an awards consultant for decades. “It doesn’t necessarily signal higher ratings for other awards shows. Marketers of movies and broadcast shows lose. Potential nominees lose. Ancillary businesses lose, including media. The city of Los Angeles loses.”
Still, some could benefit from the situation, at least in the short term. And win or lose financially, many say the issues at stake go beyond money and are about Hollywood setting higher standards for itself around issues of inclusion, conduct, equity and ethics.
“The HFPA cannot accurately reflect the best of our industry until your membership expands to reflect more of the social, cultural and ethnic diversity that exists in the stories we tell and the creators with whom we work,,” WarnerMedia executives wrote in a letter to HFPA President Ali Sar on Sunday, one day before NBC pulled the plug on the Globes for 2022. The letter went on, “For far too long, demands for perks, special favors and unprofessional requests have been made to our teams and to others across the industry [by the HFPA]. We regret that as an industry, we have complained, but largely tolerated this behavior until now.”
With much still uncertain about the future of the HFPA and the Globes, here is a guide to how some of the key players in this drama may be affected.
Time’s Up, Color of Change
Days after the publication of The Times’ investigation, which highlighted the fact that the HFPA has no Black members, Time’s Up came out swinging, calling on the group to undertake sweeping reforms. Boosted by powerful Hollywood figures such as filmmaker Ava DuVernay and TV producer Shonda Rhimes, the organization mobilized a social media campaign and formed an alliance with other advocacy groups such as Color of Change and a coalition of more than 100 publicity agencies, holding the HFPA’s feet to the fire for months.
“This is what we were created for,” Time’s Up President and CEO Tina Tchen told The Times on Wednesday. “To really make change happen, to not just accept cosmetic or surface solutions and to work for safer workplaces and a better and more inclusive culture for everyone. So we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish with all of our community here.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
The Globes has long been a thorn in the academy’s side. With the show now off the table for next year, the Oscars — which has been struggling with declining viewership for years — could recapture some of the awards-season excitement that the Globes has coopted. Meanwhile, the HFPA’s fumbling response to the uproar over its lack of Black members has made the swift and dramatic action the academy has taken since 2017 to remake its own membership in response to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy look even better.
In mid-March, in a devastating blow to the HFPA, a coalition of more than 100 Hollywood publicity agencies announced they would cut off the group’s access to their clients until it enacted reforms to “eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA.” Talent representatives as a group, including agents and managers, stand to be hit financially by the loss of the Globes.. But many publicists, prodded by their clients, are apparently willing to lose money if the end result is what they believe to be a more inclusive and ethical industry.
Smaller awards shows
The Critics Choice Awards, which has aired for years on the CW network, has long been fighting to come out from behind from the Globes’ shadow. The Screen Actors Guild Awards draws a panoply of stars but relatively minuscule ratings on TNT and TBS. While it’s unlikely either will be called up to the big leagues to take the Globes’ spot, both shows could draw more eyeballs and influence in this new awards season landscape.
Non-HFPA foreign entertainment journalists
With the HFPA pledging to open up its historically insular membership ranks, adding 50% in the next 18 months with a focus on recruiting Black members, many who have long been shut out of the group — including Norwegian journalist Kjersti Flaa, whose antitrust lawsuit against the group last year helped spark the push for change — could find themselves invited to join. The lawsuit was dismissed, but Flaa plans to file an appeal.
Netflix’s decision last week to stop working with the HFPA until more meaningful reforms are enacted was, in itself, a death blow to any hopes of a 2022 Globes. Amazon Studios, Warner Bros. and HBO quickly followed, and, according to insiders, other studios were also preparing to shun the Globes when NBC pulled the plug. The streamer, which has aggressively campaigned and spent big in pursuit of trophies, stands to suffer from the loss of the Globes as a marketing tool. But as a key player in forcing NBC’s hand, the streaming giant showcased its power and cemented key relationships with DuVernay, Rhimes and other Hollywood talent pushing for change.
In his five stints serving as host of the Globes, Gervais delivered a series of stinging jokes about the HFPA’s credibility and legitimacy — jokes that now have the ring of prophecy.
Needless to say, the HFPA is the biggest loser in this drama. Riven with internal division, beset by criticism from all sides, cut off for now from its lifeblood of access to celebrities, the group has been knocked from its perch of power and influence in Hollywood, and it is far from clear that it will be able to regain it ever again.
In an effort to save itself and its show, the organization is pressing ahead with its reform plans. “Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority for our organization,” the HFPA said in a statement this week.
Once a cascade of studios and stars began declaring they wouldn’t work with the HFPA, NBC had few options but to cancel the 2022 Globes. No talent, no awards show. The network probably will lose millions but, beyond the financial impact, NBC’s handling of the crisis revealed a crucial misunderstanding of both its own role in building up the HFPA and the wider industry’s longstanding gripes with the organization. “We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” the network said in a statement. “However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right.”
Dick Clark Productions
In 1983, Dick Clark Productions plucked the Golden Globes from cable obscurity and scandal (Pia Zadora’s win for Best New Star a year earlier) when it partnered with the HFPA. Under DCP the ceremony began its glitz and ratings ascent, landing on NBC — which pays the producers roughly half of the $60-million contract to broadcast the Globes. The loss of the show puts a big hole in the producer’s live events calendar — and potentially, its coffers.
NBC’s decision to pull next year’s Globes delivered a devastating financial blow for those consultants who earn their income directly from mounting awards campaigns. Without a 2022 Globes ceremony, publicists’ contracts that would normally net handsome bonuses for nominations and wins will, for now at least, go away like Tom Cruise’s boxed trio of returned trophies.
A Globe trophy isn’t just a nice thing for a star to put on the mantel or an extra fancy paperweight. Agents use the awards to boost their clients’ asking price for subsequent projects, while a Globes nomination can help propel a performance toward Oscar glory. Still, while it stings to have one less coveted award, actors won’t miss the HFPA members’ frequently cringe-worthy questions and endless requests for selfies.
Indie films, foreign movies, comedies and musicals
Publicists and marketers know that, when it comes to adult-oriented fare, awards are crucial to breaking through the noise. While the studios and streamers have plenty of marketing muscle, smaller independent films and foreign films could suffer from the absence of the Globes’ platform.
Comedies and musicals have their own separate categories at the Globes, without which upcoming films such as “In the Heights” and “West Side Story” will have a smaller awards boost. Still, indie distributor Neon — which released 2020’s Oscar best-picture winning “Parasite” — joined its bigger counterparts in saying they would boycott the HFPA until, as a spokesman told Variety last week, “they reform the organization to reflect they are living in the 21st Century.”
Recipients of HFPA philanthropy
As its cash reserves swelled in recent years, the HFPA increased its philanthropy, giving away millions of dollars to various causes supporting the arts and journalism, with more than $5 million in grants awarded in 2020. The HFPA’s woes could put a damper on such giving. “My Noir Foundation would not be able to save as many films without HFPA’s generous aid,” Eddie Muller wrote on Twitter in March of his film restoration nonprofit. “So my attitude, obviously, is that if the house is in disarray it’s far better to refurbish than burn it to the ground.”
The stars strutting the red carpet soak up all the attention but it takes an army to mount the Globes — including the rental company that supplies that very carpet. With the Globes gone, the trickle-down effects will hit everyone who draws income from putting on the show. For the Beverly Hilton hotel, where the awards have long been held, sponsors such as champagne maker Moet and caterers, limo drivers and florists, shutting down “Hollywood’s Party of the Year” is no laughing matter.