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Hollywood revs up for the new year

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Steve Chiotakis: The Golden Globe Awards are this weekend, and in this economic fallout, a low-key affair is more the order. Stars, of course, will show off their fancy clothes, but we’re told it won’t be over-the-top like years past. Last year, of course, there was no awards ceremony because of the writers’ strike.

This time of year is a big deal in the inner workings of Hollywood. We turn to Michael Speier, executive editor of Variety, joining us with the lowdown. Michael, how important is this time of year for studios?

Michael Speier: It’s probably the most important time of year besides summer. I mean, the studios want that award because it does wonders for box office to say in the ad campaign, “Nominated for six Golden Globes, winner of three Academy Awards.”

Chiotakis: It gives them a big bump.

Speier: It gives them a huge bump at the box office, it can mean millions and millions of dollars. Something like Doubt or something like Slumdog Millionaire, you know, little movies that really need the marketing campaign and word of mouth, this means everything.

Chiotakis: So there’s that big film festival, Sundance, started off as a sort of every man’s festival. What is it today, do you think?

Speier: You know, it comes during the time of awards season, so why not say that it’s the same thing as a big business? Right now, it’s not the same thing as it was 10, 15 years ago. It isn’t the “let’s discover the little movie and let’s champion these little things.” Yes, that happens, but at the same time it’s really about sponsorship. It’s about major studios bringing big movies there to try to get business during the year.

Chiotakis: Here we are in this economic fallout, and people don’t have all that extra money that they used to have. And I think we’re seeing this as far as DVD sales go. Regular Blu-Ray discs, box sets, no one seems to be buying these anymore. What’s the word about moving this kind of merchandise?

Speier: Like everything else, it’s down. I think the general population, they still go out and buy the movies that they like. But what you’re seeing is that awe factor, that inspired factor. When you’re seeing Sopranos box set. Years ago, people were excited about stuff like that. Now, that has kind of worn off, and everyone has different ways to watch things. On Demand, DVRs, renting. You know, everything plays a factor, including iTunes for example, which is another way of getting products on a different venue.

Chiotakis: Before the end of the year, we heard a lot about the Screen Actors Guild and the possibility of a strike. There’s going to be a vote here at the beginning of the year. What are we hearing now?

Speier: There’s a big meeting on Monday to determine A, When will there be a strike authorization vote, and actually, what is the mood? And should we go forward with this? So we’ll know more next week. Right now, there’s just no movement on it. Come Monday, this could be the biggest story of the new year, or it could just go and go without any resolution. The problem is the membership isn’t as strong for this vote as the WGA, the Writers’ Guild, was last year.

Chiotakis: Michael Speier, executive editor of Variety. Thanks for being here.

Speier: My pleasure.

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