LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - If a movie wins a Golden Globe, but there's no ceremony, does the prize still count?
That's the issue faced by the Hollywood studios behind such films as "Atonement" and "Sweeney Todd," which lost their moments of glory on Sunday to the Hollywood writers strike.
Globe organizers were forced to cancel their usual NBC broadcast after the actors union said it would boycott the event in deference to striking writers. A 30-minute news conference was held instead, with the winners announced by a revolving cast of TV gossip show reporters.
That's a poor promotional platform for films that would have benefited from primetime exposure during an alcohol-fueled, three-hour broadcast packed with celebrities.
"Certainly it takes away the visibility from us and everybody, which is too bad," said Jack Foley, president of distribution at General Electric Co's Focus Features, which released best-drama winner "Atonement." "It's a big, huge commercial. There are no two ways about it."
Last year, 20 million viewers tuned in to the show, and winners such as "The Queen" and "Babel" used the Globes as a springboard to expand nationally the following weekend.
"Atonement," which led the field with seven nominations, has earned a modest $25 million after six weeks in release, and is now playing in 950 theaters. (By contrast, box office champ "The Bucket List" is in 2,911 theaters.)
"Atonement," which also won for Italian composer Dario Marianelli's score, was one of four double-winners. The others were the bloody musical "Sweeney Todd," the French-language drama "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," and the violent thriller "No Country For Old Men."
Foley said it would be vital for movies to trumpet their Globes successes in newspaper and TV ads, especially since the following Monday is a holiday in the United States, and Oscar nominations will be announced the day after.
DreamWorks Pictures' "Sweeney Todd" was named best comedy/musical, and star Johnny Depp took the best actor prize in that category. Director Tim Burton's musical about a vengeful London barber has earned about $44 million to date.
A spokesman for the Viacom Inc-owned studio hoped the media frenzy at the news conference would yield plenty of publicity for the movie. It will expand next weekend by a few hundred theaters from its current 1,323 tally.
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," released by Walt Disney Co's Miramax Films, has earned almost $2 million after seven weeks in 75 theaters. It won for best foreign film, and Julian Schnabel was named best director.
Miramax also released "No Country For Old Men," for which Spanish actor Javier Bardem was named best supporting actor. Its directors, Joel and Ethan Coen, won the screenplay award. With earnings of $46.8 million, it is the Coens' most successful release, surpassing "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
While there is inevitably a lot of overlap between the Globe and Oscar nominees, the Globes have not foreshadowed the best-picture Oscar winner since 2004, when "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" topped both ceremonies.
The Globes are determined by about 90 foreign journalists, and the Oscars by 6,500 industry professionals. Oscar winners will be announced on February 24, assuming the writers strike does not take down Hollywood's biggest night as well.
Editing by Doina Chiacu