The beleaguered Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a good piece of news this week with the announcement that the landmark 80th edition of its Golden Globe awards will return to primetime TV after a year off the air.
Under a one-year deal with NBC and Peacock, the show will be broadcast and streamed across the U.S. on January 10.
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Talking on a Zurich Summit panel on Saturday, HFPA President Helen Hoehne welcomed the deal but said boosting viewing figures for the Golden Globes show remained challenging.
“How do we make people tune in again and get interested?” she said. “The truth is since we don’t really celebrate commercially successful films and award shows, why do people tune in? What do they want to watch?” she said.
“People watch things differently,” she continued, noting that the most popular live TV event in the U.S. was NFL Football. “That’s our biggest enemy. That’s what we struggle with. I think you all know, next year, the Golden Globes are broadcast on a Tuesday. And that’s because Sunday is reserved for NFL football.”
Hoehne said the fact that the show will be streaming on Peacock, as well as airing on NBC, was exciting but suggested that more work needed to be done to connect with people on social networks.
“People don’t watch broadcast television anymore. They’re on Tik-Tok, Instagram, Twitter. People’s habits have changed.”
She said that despite the challenges around viewing figures, award shows like the Golden Globes remained a big part of the conversation around cinema, talent and the awards season.
“The beauty of our award shows is that they still bring the world together. We still talk about them, in school and at work,” she said.
“We get excited about who won it, and honestly, even in this room, who doesn’t like to win, you still like to win, right? Filmmakers like to win; actors like to win. They’re still relevant. We just have to make them more exciting again, and I think more fun.”
Hoehne did not give details of what changes might be afoot at the 2023 Golden Globes but teased that plans were afoot for “an exciting host”.
“We’re thinking of ways to reinvent ourselves, to make the show more exciting. We’re bringing on an exciting host and will make it a fun party. But I can’t tell you who that host is yet.”
The HFPA is rebuilding after a tumultuous 18 months following a Los Angeles Times report alleging corruption and criticizing a lack of ethnic diversity among the membership.
Talking about the reforms underway in the light of these charges, Hoehne said the HFPA had put rules in place banning members from accepting gifts and offers of travel or hospitality.
The association has also sought to overhaul its membership and boost diversity, noting that a recent influx of 103 new members had changed the gender and diversity split.
“With the additional members that we just took, we now represent 62 countries, which I really love and that really is the cornerstone of our organization. Diversity, equity and inclusion is also a hugely important cause and we have been working on this the entire year.”
Hoehne was joined on the panel by European Film Academy CEO Matthijs Wouter Knol as well as Le Grisbi Production president John Lesher and producer Greg Shapiro at Kingsgate Films, both regulars on the awards circuit and Oscar winners with Birdman and The Hurt Locker, respectively
Shapiro joked that the Globes Awards was the “most fun” of the film shindigs. But he said the influence of awards season went beyond their ceremonies, noting that the win for The Hurt Locker had significantly boosted the film’s international journey after an initially lackluster U.S. box office performance.
“It was amazingly important for the success of that film. It was a challenging film that didn’t perform huge at the box office [in the U.S], but it reached a worldwide audience because of the advantage of the awards season going on as well,” he said
“I haven’t studied it in depth but my understanding is that the studio chiefs built the first award shows as a marketing tool, right? It’s now turned into a self-celebration – in a good, positive way – for the community, for filmmakers to celebrate themselves. And that’s an important component that doesn’t ever go away.”
Speaking plainly, Lesher said the reason audiences were no longer tuning in to the shows in the same numbers as in the past was simply that they were “really boring”.
But like Shapiro, he acknowledged that awards season, if not the ceremonies themselves, played their part in connecting spectators with films.
“When you’re making a film, all you can try to do is make a film that can connect with people, getting to that place is really long and hard and very subjective,” he said.
“Then when you’re sitting down and trying to figure out how to sell the film, you think ‘does this film have awards potential and how are we going to build a campaign to do that’.”
Pondering what could be done to liven up awards shows, Shapiro suggested that ditching some technical categories might make the shows more palatable for the wider audience but questioned whether it was the right way to go.
“I know there’s a lot of categories that the public doesn’t understand necessarily, but they’re really important to the craft of filmmaking, and then they deserve to be recognized,” he said.
“The show would be more popular, more people would watch it if it were shorter and it was focused on the awards that people actually have an appreciation for: best actors, best picture, etc are perceived as glamorous. But I for one personally would be disappointed if the technical awards were no longer part of it.”