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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood on Sunday awaited the strike-plagued Golden Globe Awards at a drab news conference to announce winners, rather than the usual star-filled gala.
The film and television awards, given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, are a key stop on the road to Oscars, the world's top film honors, and as a result are widely watched in the industry and by millions of television viewers.
But the screenwriters strike derailed this year's event when the Writers Guild of America, which is embroiled in a labor dispute with major film and TV studios, threatened to picket the ceremony. As a result, A-list stars to refuse to attend.
Lacking star power, television network NBC and the HFPA scrapped the gala shown on TV in a roughly three-hour telecast, and in its place decided to air a one-hour news conference.
Typically on Golden Globe Sunday, stars such as Keira Knightley, nominated for best actress in a drama for her role in romance "Atonement," would have picked designer gowns and glittering jewelry to parade up the red carpet.
Nominated actors such as George Clooney for legal thriller "Michael Clayton" and Daniel Day-Lewis in dark human drama "There Will Be Blood" might be practicing Golden Globe acceptance speeches that could kick off an Oscar campaign.
But this year, none of that is happening.
"The Globes are often an Oscar audition," said Tom O'Neil of awards Web site TheEnvelope.com. "But their impact will be reduced this year because we won't see stars giving speeches."
Nomination ballots already have been turned in to Oscar organizers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but acceptance speeches can help sway votes for eventual Oscar nominees if they are endearing, O'Neil said.
Some 10,500 Writers Guild members went on strike against the studios in November, throwing the TV season into disarray and causing several awards shows to change their formats.
Earlier this month, the People's Choice Awards revamped from a live, star-studded telecast to a magazine-style format with pre-taped awards and interviews. Its TV audience fell by nearly half to 6 million viewers from 11.3 million last year.
Still, the Golden Globes are widely followed in Hollywood, and this year's honors feature seven competitors in the key race, best film drama, instead of the more typical five. "Atonement," which had seven nominations, more than any film, is tipped to win.
But the romance will see competition from drug-dealing drama "No Country for Old Men," crime thriller "American Gangster" and "There Will Be Blood." Other drama nominees include mob movie "Eastern Promises" and "The Great Debaters."
For best film musical or comedy, "Sweeney Todd," based on the stage show about a killer barber, competes against teen pregnancy film "Juno," musicals "Hairspray" and "Across the Universe" and the political comedy "Charlie Wilson's War."
Best dramatic actor nominees feature a host of A-list stars such as Clooney, Day-Lewis, Viggo Mortensen for "Eastern Promises" and Denzel Washington in "American Gangster."
Among best dramatic actress nominees, Knightley will battle frontrunner Julie Christie in "Away From Her," Angelina Jolie for "A Mighty Heart," Jodie Foster in "The Brave One" and Cate Blanchett for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age."
Editing by Bill Trott