Are the Oscars in Jeopardy? Hollywood on High Alert

The future may not look so bright for Oscar after Hollywood's striking writers and their allies took aim at the Golden Globes, forcing the popular awards show to cancel the ceremony, in favor of a glorified news conference.

"It's definitely a bad omen for the Oscars," said Stuart Levine of Variety. It's the second big blow to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has been unable to persuade the union to let writers work for the broadcast.

"The WGA [Writers Guild of America] has already said it was not going to grant a waiver to the Oscars. We could see the same exact scenario as with the Golden Globes, where there will be a lot of talk and then no Oscar show after all."

The Academy however, has not yet formally requested the waiver.

With or without a union pass, an ABC network spokeswoman insists preparations for broadcasting the Academy Awards, Feb. 24, are proceeding.

Academy president Sid Ganis told, "We're moving ahead with our plans. That's our job, to prepare a show and that's what we're doing."

Last year about 40 million people tuned in to watch the crown jewel of awards shows, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.

"It's anybody's guess how it's going to go. For some reason, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has taken a wait-and-see approach," said Nellie Andreeva of the Hollywood Reporter.

"But if they don't come to an agreement, the Oscars could be the next casualty."

The Critics Choice Awards producers received a waiver from the WGA and at the ceremony this week many actors shared their opinions about the possibility of a dark stage on Oscar night.

"I can't really imagine them letting the Oscars go, but if so, so be it," said Don Cheadle. "We have to have solidarity with?the writers."

George Clooney suggested tough love. "The big hope is that all these guys get into a room and start to solve this and lock the doors and don't come out until they solve it."

Some awards shows have clearly been spared the wrath of the WGA. The Critics Choice Awards got a pass, as did the Spirit Awards for independent films, which will be held the day before the Oscars.

"They have been very selective and that is raising some eyebrows because they have not been consistent in their strategy," said Andreeva. She suggests the WGA's granting of waivers to some-, but not all, is calculated for maximum effect.

"It's a big war for them. They have too many moving targets and I understand they have to pick and choose. The award season is one of the holy grails of entertainment, something that is treasure and has been around for decades. They [the WGA] wanted to go after the two big ones."

Adam Shankman, the director of the movie "Hairspray," has a problem with that approach.

"The idea that any guild would prevent their members from being able to celebrate while not effectively taking down the networks? And granting waivers to other people? It's really a shame. It's really, I think, kind of wrong and not thinking of the big picture."

Representatives for the WGA did not respond to inquiries seeking comment about its policy for handing out strike waivers.

Box Office Buzz a Casualty

The buzz and hype that often follows the nominations for a Globe or Oscar can have a significant upside for a film's box office. And the payoff can persist after an awards ceremony if a movie or actor comes away with one of the coveted statues.

"Not having the awards shows and not having these stars up their talking about the films, thanking their co-stars, directors and studios, can definitely effect the total box office." says Variety's Levine.

"These kinds of awards shows especially help the smaller films like Juno, The Great Debaters and Savages — the kinds of movies that can use all the promotional help they can get."

Adds Andreeva: "There is nothing like a prime time ceremony where people all over the country and world can see the stars and clips from the movies."

Not Business as Usual

Los Angeles is an industry town. Some might say a one-industry town. A protracted labor dispute usually cuts a company town deep.

The 10-week-old writers strike is no exception.

The production shutdowns have put the squeeze on a wide variety of businesses that depend on a flourishing not floundering entertainment industry.

Caterers, limo drivers, makeup and hair stylists, hotels and restaurants, dry cleaners — the list is exhaustive. All have suffered during the strike. The cancellation of big awards shows just adds to the misery.

According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., the Oscars can pump as much as $130 million into the local economy. The Golden Globes can enrich the community by almost $80 million.

"We are very concerned about the impact of the lingering strike," said Leron Gubler, head of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

"The Oscars, if canceled, would have a great impact on us here because it is held in the Kodak Theatre and a lot of parties are held near here at various Hollywood night spots."

Bad for the Head

Laurent Dufourg is a legendary "hairdresser to the stars" and his winters are typically spent fashioning the high-priced heads of Hollywood's top stars for their big nights on the red carpet.

Dufourg has created memorable looks for a long line of A-listers including Uma Thurman, Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sharon Stone and Teri Hatcher.

But he describes this awards season as "catastrophic" with at least a 30 percent drop in revenue the last two months.

"It [the strike] is dramatically impacting my business," said Dufourg.

"Usually by this time of the year I am booked by at least three or four people for the awards and booked solid for the events before and after. For the last month I did not get one call at all. I knew then nobody was going."

But even with the downturn, there is a potential bright side for some.

Prospective customers who faced a wait of months to get an appointment with the stylist to the stars can probably get in his chair now.

"I'm free!" he said with a chuckle.