LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - And the winner is ... on videotape only. Producers of the People’s Choice Awards, an annual televised coronation of favorite TV and film stars chosen by the public, said on Wednesday the upcoming show will be presented in a new prerecorded “magazine”-style format because of the Hollywood writers strike.
Announcement of the change came a day after the Writers Guild of America said it would refuse to grant special waivers to allow organizers of the more prestigious Oscars and Golden Globe Awards to hire union writers for their shows.
The usual live format for the People’s Choice Awards, which would have been held at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium, with winners taking the stage to accept their awards as announced, has been scrapped, along with the traditional red carpet.
Instead, the two-hour CBS broadcast on January 8 will consist of host Queen Latifah appearing in prerecorded segments, introducing a string of video clips of nominees and winners, who will be contacted in advance to tape thank-you speeches.
The make-over of the 34-year-old awards gala was prompted by difficulties posed by studios’ labor dispute with the WGA, whose members are barred from working on any show considered a “struck production” by the union.
A number of stars also have publicly expressed reservations about the prospect of crossing picket lines to attend awards shows, including the Golden Globes on January 13 and the film industry’s highest honors, the Oscars on February 24.
Organizers of both those events have said their shows would go on somehow, with or without the Writers Guild’s blessing.
But Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spokeswoman Leslie Unger said she strongly doubted the Oscars would resort to the kind of format adopted by the People’s Choice Awards.
“It’s very difficult for me to envision that we would follow the model you just described to me,” she told Reuters. “I would be very surprised.”
The 10,500 film and TV writers represented by the WGA went on strike November 5. Talks aimed at settling Hollywood’s worst labor crisis in 20 years collapsed December 7 with no new negotiations scheduled.
“Out of respect for everyone who is involved with the issues that are happening in the industry right now, we just thought it would be best to take on a new format this year,” said Jeannie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for the People’s Choice Awards.
Asked who would write material for the host and others who appear by videotape on the show, she said: “We’re lucky to have someone like Queen Latifah who doesn’t need a script. ... There’s no material to write.”
With a dizzying array of categories voted on by the American public — such as favorite male movie star, favorite leading man and favorite male action star — the People’s Choice Awards are not exactly in the top-tier of awards shows.
This year’s ceremony, televised by CBS, drew 11.3 million viewers, up a little from 2006, but far below its 1977 heyday of 35 million. By contrast, the Academy Awards drew 40.2 million in February.
The Matt Damon spy thriller “The Bourne Ultimatum” leads contenders for the event with nominations for favorite movie, favorite action movie and favorite male action star.
Organizers of the People’s Choice Awards said more than 10 million online votes already have been cast to choose winners for 38 categories, which are split among film, TV and music.
In addition to giving their acceptance speeches in pre-taped remarks, the some winners will answer questions posed by fans online in advance, producers said.