BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - A low-key atmosphere enveloped the Golden Globes on Sunday in place of the usual red-carpet chaos as sponsors of the widely watched Hollywood awards headed to a news conference to announce winners.
The film and television awards given out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are a key stop on the road to the world's leading film honors, the Oscars, but this year's gala dinner, which typically is a champagne-soaked affair, was drastically scaled back due to the screenwriters strike.
By early evening at past Golden Globe ceremonies, A-list stars such as Keira Knightley, nominated as best actress in a drama for the wartime epic "Atonement," would be parading up the red carpet in designer gowns and glittering jewelry.
Nominated actors, such as George Clooney for legal thriller "Michael Clayton" and Daniel Day-Lewis in the dark human drama "There Will Be Blood" would be chatting with reporters.
But this year, none of that is happening because striking members of the Writers Guild of America threatened to picket the event, leaving nominees and presenters expected to boycott the ceremony rather than cross picket lines.
Lacking star power, television network NBC and the HFPA scrapped the usual three-hour-plus gala broadcast, and in its place decided to air a televised one-hour news conference.
A spokesman for the Golden Globes said no other major U.S. broadcasters planned to air the event that begins at 9 p.m. EST/6 p.m. PST, but cable TV networks E! and the TV Guide Network planned to carry the announcement. ABC.com plans to put the announcement on the Web, spokesman Michael Russell said.
Entertainment news anchors Brooke Anderson of CNN's "Showbiz Tonight," Dayna Devon from celebrity news program "Extra," Mary Hart of "Entertainment Tonight," Jim Moret from "Inside Edition," Giuliana Rancic of "E! News Daily," and Lara Spencer from "The Insider" were picked to read the roster of winners. But Russell said that no stars were expected to attend to receive their awards in person.
Outside the Beverly Hills hotel where the event is held, the red carpet had been rolled up, and while no WGA members were outside picketing, about a half-dozen members of a sister union held signs that said: "Settle the Strike."
Some 10,500 Writers Guild members went on strike against the studios in November, throwing the TV season into disarray and forcing several awards shows to change their formats.
Earlier this month, the People's Choice Awards got 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 epic 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 story "Juno," musicals "Hairspray" and "Across the Universe" and the political comedy "Charlie Wilson's War."