Each year, the Academy Awards season seems to drag on longer and longer as Hollywood stages one black-tie gala after another to honor the year's best achievements in film. The pre-Oscar buzz generated by these star-studded affairs has given shows such as the Golden Globe Awards a status and influence that can affect the Academy Awards race.
Now, the American Film Institute is planning to launch its own prime-time televised awards show Jan. 5 on CBS--two weeks before the Golden Globes on NBC--in a move that is likely to kick-start the Oscar race even sooner.
Called "AFI Awards 2001," the show--to be announced today by the AFI--will mark the first time the institute names its choices for top film of the year, along with best actor, actress, director and other categories.
Meanwhile, a group representing the nation's broadcast film critics plans to upgrade its annual Critics' Choice Awards luncheon to a full-blown gala dinner, which will be taped for airing sometime in January by the E! Entertainment cable network.
The proliferation of awards shows is becoming a concern for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which will host next year's Oscar extravaganza March 24 live on ABC.
"It would be nice to think of ourselves as the climax to a series of playoffs," said Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director. "But the fact is that these awards tend to involve the same films, the same people presenting them, the same people receiving them, and I think we would be naive to think that the specialness of our event wasn't being eroded by the proliferation of these early-year film award shows.
"You don't want to get into a battle about it and tell people you can't come on our show if they go on another show," he added, "but you hope, at some point, that potential presenters themselves may begin to worry about overexposure."
Awards From AFI Likely to Be Coveted
Because of the AFI's high profile in the industry, its awards are likely to be coveted by filmmakers and actors. But AFI Director Jean Picker Firstenberg said it was for others to decide what impact the awards would have on the Oscar race, saying, "I don't think [the awards show] infringes on anyone else in the community at all."
Pointing out that many AFI members belong to the academy as well, Firstenberg said: "From the AFI's point of view, what we are trying to do is identify what has occurred over the past year and put it into a historic context to understand what it means for the future. . . . This is not a peer award, it's not a craft award, it's not a critic's award, it's not a historian's award. It's a cross-section of the communities that have devoted their life to this art form."
Still, one only has to look at the success of the Golden Globes to see why the AFI or the critics group might be tempted to get a television deal. Now in their 59th year, the Globes are decided by 90 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., journalists writing for overseas publications. The nonprofit association has reaped a fortune in television revenue since the show began being broadcast on NBC.
Joey Berlin, who heads the 155-member Broadcast Film Critics Assn., is not shy about his goal to turn the Critics' Choice Awards, now in its seventh year, into a rival of the Golden Globes.
"Our plan from Day One is that by the 10th year, we would be on a par with the Globes insofar as notoriety and influence [are concerned]. I think we are on schedule," Berlin said. "I think what the Golden Globes have done is they've positioned themselves beautifully to influence the Academy Awards and, to their credit, they have created the greatest party of the year in the film business. But I think the importance of the Golden Globes is wildly overestimated."
So far, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. doesn't seem especially concerned about the competition. "We don't lose much sleep over it," said association Vice President Lorenzo Soria, who writes for the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Already, television is glutted with awards shows. They include not only the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammys, Emmys and Tonys, but also the People's Choice Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Music Video Awards, MTV Movie Awards, Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, Latin Grammys, Daytime Emmy Awards, Soul Train Awards, Country Music Assn. Awards, and the list goes on and on.
Networks, Public Love Awards Shows
Tom O'Neil, who wrote a book on TV awards shows and hosts the awards Web site http://www.goldderby.com, believes that despite an explosion of such shows in recent years, the networks and the public still seem enamored with them.
"Right now, there are more than three dozen show business awards in prime time between December and April," O'Neil said. "There is an awards show on once a week. . . . I don't know at what point we're going to hit the saturation point, but it doesn't seem that the public can get enough of these."