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THB #195: Part 2 - Where The For-Profit Globes Could Take Us
“Let’s just get back to business!!!”
Not a specific quote. Something one hears.
And though my intention in this piece is to offer a response to that sentiment about The Golden Globes, I’m not sure I can.
The use of the word “integrity” regarding award season overall, whatever the show or the awards group or the amounts of money makes many people laugh out loud.
So why does anything matter?
I am reminded of the old joke, the origins of which are surely more than 100 years old, attributed along the way to everyone from Winston Churchill to WC Field to George Bernard Shaw. Here is the version that was seen on Mr Robot a few years ago.
Why did The Golden Globes get shut down by distributors and talent management in 2021?
Has that principle been corrected in the 14 months since?
No. Obviously. In fact, if you have any sense of perspective, the issue of HFPA’s principles has been addressed only in the most cynical way and now, taking the organization private, there is a tacit acknowledgement that the only corrective needed to solve the dilemma is a surface response on race (6 or 7 new black members) and the removal of financial malfeasance as a not-for-profit from public view.
But if the principles of the organization and its actions within the industry are not an important issue to you, we are just negotiating price.
And indeed, that is exactly what Todd Boehly has been doing since he took over the CEO spot for HFPA last fall. He has tested, as a businessman with no interest in principle does by nature, just how far HFPA needs to go in order to satisfy those who are against just going back to business to continue business as usual… or in fact, to do even more that would serious concern those “against” HFPA behaviors, but that need not be addressed at all by a private for-profit organization.
I can’t blame Todd Boehly for this. It’s a piece of business.
Once you find - or in the case of HFPA, re-find - the balance of benefit and discomfort that allows people of the highest intention to look away, you have won the day. As long as you don’t cross the line again, in a way that allows people to see your actions, you are golden.
Remember, the LA Times story, which has never really been challenged on fact, landed in February. Distributors and talent management moved against The Globes in May. Nothing had actually changed in the intervening months… which is kind of the point. HFPA did not effectively respond to the situation, assuming in the majority that it would just go away.
But now, made worse, it may just go away and who will speak up to principle? No one at the trades. The trades are owned by the people working to make the cash cow live again. Either they have rationalized the issue away or are protecting their jobs… and who can blame them for that?
Will the LA Times speak up again? How? The newly private HFPA won’t have to disclose a thing. We will all only rely on rumors that we know are true… like before the LA Times piece in February 2021… a piece that was powered by not-for-profit reports disclosing revenue and expenditures.
So… let’s try to take the next step.
Does a privatized Golden Globes matter? How will it affect the rest of the award season? Will there be a wave of significance beyond the award season?
The answer depends, again, on how you see The Award Season and The Industry.
If it is all just a piece of business, who cares? The business of it will take care of itself.
I believe that the industry has been a poor steward of some of the awards windows, getting so caught up in the machinery of it all that it has forgotten the purpose of these awards in the first place. And if I can’t sell you an argument of principle, at least let me appeal to your greed, as benefited by the perception of their audiences.
It’s hard to claim “awards don’t matter” if your industry is investing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in awards.
When we have the conversation about why award show ratings are in the toilet, there is always a series of answers, none of which have to do with the betrayal of the ideas of these shows that once so interested audiences.
And there are so many constituencies that you can’t effectively make arguments about focus without stepping on someone’s toes.
Even typing these words scares me… but is The Academy in the business of supporting movies or in the business of creating inclusion in its own ranks? (Do they even know what movies are in 2023? A different discussion.) I believe that the idea of inclusion is really important and The Academy should have and should continue to pursue the effort. But is inclusion a principle of the organization or the driving principle of the organization in 2023?
It is fair for those who continue to fight for The Academy to be more focused on inclusion to ask, “Is there really something more important than what we care about? This organization has excluded people of color and women for decades and its time to fix it without regard to the immediate consequence.”
It is also fair to question whether or not these activities within The Academy have actually been responsible for the last 5 years having the worst ratings in the history of Oscar.
There should not be an effect. But my thoughts are not that people are not watching Oscar because The Academy or its selections have become more diverse, but that people have stopped watching because the inclusion effort has become so much the focus that The Academy no longer is focused enough on its central goals… and that their CEO for the last 10 years has had no idea how to approach those central goals, so she happily became mostly about inclusion, which kept her in a job in spite of her many failures and keeps her a hero to many within the organization.
It’s all very murky.
Some people are promoting the idea of continuing The Golden Globes because they give away money. About $6 million a year in recent years. Even putting aside that a good amount of that money was also self-dealing to organizations personally connected to membership, the question is whether this is enough to buy a pass for HFPA.
Well… is it?
Why is HFPA’s money “blood money” and The Academy’s is not?
I think I’ve answered that question… but that doesn’t keep the question from being asked. And I can’t really rage at any individual whose annual income is directly and significantly benefited by the existence of The Golden Globes. They are trying to make a (very nice) living. Why should they take the loss?
We could take it to the absurd. Let’s take it all private! The same deal HFPA members are looking at now would be cost a buyer $1 billion+ a year if someone was trying to buy AMPAS. For CCA, $40 million+ a year. For the film critics groups in LA and NY, about $5 million a year.
I mean… how great would it be for film writers and tv personalities to get a $100,000 a year stipend just for being awards voters? Suddenly, the film journalist business would offer consistency to its workers and hard working mostly middle-aged journos would be free of the anxiety of paying the mortgage every month.
And then there is this…
How can Todd Boehly and Jay Penske use their leverage to pull even more money out of the industry as part of The Golden Globes effort? OR once they’ve seen the big city, how do you get them to be happy back at the farm?
For these guys, like the scorpion told the frog, it is just their nature to maximize revenue. Is entertainment journalism better with Penske’s ownership of all the trades (except The Wrap… oy) or is it just more profitable? Will HFPA do better under Boehly’s ownership or will it just seek to be more profitable?
Damn it! Are you a capitalist or a communist?
Is there really any reason why HFPA won’t be able to tack on an extra, say, $10,000 fee, on top of costs, for every future press conference or screening? Once you have embraced The Globes again because it is just so important to you, how can that incremental cost keep you from your embrace?
Is there a reason why Penske can’t limit award hopefuls to using their stable of talent to do Q&As if they want a “discount” on ads, perhaps even charging a multiple of what have been traditional fees for hosting, all going directly into the pocket of the parent company?
How much more can Boehly’s HFPA get for tables at events?
As the ratings continue to decline - the dream for Boehly being surpassing Oscar and becoming even more valuable as a TV show - what buttons can be squeezed to keep annual revenues increasing? And how can the enablers argue against it?
A few million here… a few million there… does anything matter? In for a penny, in for a million pounds sterling.
And really… is there any reason why after a few years of having “liquor” delivered through the front door then taken out the backdoor to be resold, bankrupting the business they have invested in, they can’t just burn the places down, taking the insurance money?
Does it bleed over to the unknowing audience? Can they feel it, even if they don’t know what is going on behind the scenes?
After a year of being sidelined, HFPA is ready to come back and benefit more brazenly than ever. And they added 6 Black people, so that must be okay, right?
None of it is black and white, no pun intended. It;s the gray market. There is a lot of money in the gray market. Hundreds of people line up near my home every week for “the drop” at Supreme… many of them looking to sell what they buy on the gray market. It’s worked for them. It’s worked for Supreme. Every once in a while, there is an armed robbery on my quiet street by someone who doesn’t want to wait on line or extend their own capital. Oh, well. Cost of doing business.
No organization is flawless. No organization sprouts horns and cloven hooves at their private events.
There are millions of reasons to look away. And all fighting the power gives you is the satisfaction of knowing you are on the right side of history. (BOOOOR-ING!!!!)