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Glenn Whipp: Does Hollywood need a Golden Globes sub?

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77th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

This image released by NBC shows presenters Brad Pitt, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., in 2020.

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Minutes after Tom Cruise announced he was boxing up his three Golden Globes and returning them to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, NBC finally caved and announced it wouldn't be airing the show next year, the logical and only possible conclusion to the months of controversy sparked by a Los Angeles Times investigation into the HFPA and its long history of self-dealing, racial inequity and general shamelessness.

What happens next? Will more Hollywood stars remove their Globes from mantels and put them into storage? 

That's actually the question studios and streamers are asking right now: How do you replace a useful ceremony that in pre-pandemic times drew 18 million viewers and acted as a marketing springboard for awards season contenders as they arrived or continued playing in movie theaters?

Fact is, you can't, which adds yet another challenge to the growing list of problems facing Hollywood's beleaguered movie industry after a year of multiplex closures, films migrating to streaming platforms and an Oscars ceremony that failed to remind people that it might be a good idea to roll off their sofas, buy a ticket and a $10 tub of popcorn and return to the cinema.

Studios and personal publicists put up with the HFPA's amateur-hour antics — the posing for pictures, the inappropriate questions that often bordered on sexual harassment (per Scarlett Johansson), the disinterest in Black-led projects — because the Golden Globes could boost careers and help open movies. Now that the ceremony is gone, for one year at least, possibly more unless the HFPA follows through on its promise to reform and essentially completely remake itself, Hollywood's awards season will be without the show second only to the Oscars in ratings.

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That's a huge hole, as most movies vying for attention (and Oscars) during awards season make their mark at the box office during the ramp up to the Academy Awards. Studios have long shaped release campaigns around the Globes. Indie contenders will be forced to get creative to build awareness.

Given the perennial cries of awards show fatigue and the ceremonies' declining ratings, the erasure of the Globes could be harsh but needed medicine. Factions within the motion picture academy have long wanted to move the Oscars to earlier in the year, though any such shift would need to contend with the NFL playoff schedule and the Super Bowl. At the very least, the academy could bump up the ceremony to the mid-February date it had in 2020 and do a better job of turning its nominations announcement into a moment that might generate excitement about the films and performances. Make it a prime-time special. Ask Oprah to host. Have her bring along Harry and Meghan for commentary.

It's also possible that another group might look to capitalize on a (mortally?) wounded HFPA and shift its ceremony to the Globes' regular second-weekend-of-January date. The Screen Actors Guild Awards, a televised show owning most of the elements of the Globes — honors for both film and television, banquet setting, vegan dinner — would be a logical choice, though its ratings have never exactly been stellar. SAG-AFTRA too seems relatively disinterested in boosting the ceremony's profile, perhaps because it's a union and sees its mission more as fighting for members' benefits than throwing a self-congratulatory evening.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Critics Choice Awards, handed out by the Critics Choice Association, a group consisting primarily of junket press and regional TV entertainment anchors. As with the HFPA, its members like to take selfies with celebrities. Also like the HFPA, the Critics Choice Association allows studios to pay for its members' airfare and high-end hotel stays during lavish promotional junkets.

"Their name is misleading — they're not critics, most of them, anyway," sniffs a veteran awards consultant who has dealt with the group. "In the wake of all this stuff with the HFPA, they would need to put in some stricter checks and balances into their bylaws if they ever wanted to be taken seriously."

As the Critics Choice Awards have struggled to draw even 1 million viewers on the CW, it might not matter. You can't simply sub any awards show into the Globes' date and expect people to watch. And with audiences shifting away (fleeing?) from live TV, you can't expect people to watch, period. That's what Hollywood has to contend with right now, and the solution could be years in the making.

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