No Oscars Would Mean No Pay Day for Thousands

If the WGA strike cancels the Oscars, it will reverberate far and wide.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 8:39 AM

Dec. 12, 2007 — -- As the writer's strike drags into its sixth week and the networks' well of fresh television programs runs dry, viewers -- already left with little to tune in to -- may be deprived of their award shows fix come the new year.

And if the lights really do go out on the biggest night in Hollywood, it wouldn't just be disappointed viewers who would feel it but also the hundreds if not thousands of people who work behind the scenes to ensure that shows like the Academy Awards go off without a hitch -- from those who roll out the red carpet or make sure the A-list stars are properly (and beautifully) accessorized.

No official cancellation announcements have been made, but with three prominent award shows just around the corner -- the Golden Globes airs in January, the Grammy's in early February and the Academy Awards just a few weeks later -- industry insiders have been speculating about how the shows will air without a team of writers in place to craft the monologues and introductions.

Former head writer for the Oscars Bruce Vilanch told Variety that an Academy Awards ceremony sans writers would certainly make for interesting -- if not dull -- television.

"There might be an Oscar show, but I fear that it will look more like your high school graduation than it ever has before," Vilanch told the trade publication.

But those close to the awards are carrying on business as usual, despite the dark cloud that continues to linger over Los Angeles.

"We don't know what's going to happen, but it's still 2½ months away and we're proceeding to do all the things we would expect to do except for writing," Leslie Unger, spokeswoman for the Academy, told ABC News. "Sets are being built, all of the logistical planning in terms of the venue and city are being taken care of, and we're still planning our nominations event."

"But I'm not saying we're not worried," added Unger, who said the rumors of the show being canceled altogether are an "exaggeration."

"The show has never been canceled," said Unger.

But if this were to be the first year the ceremony is canceled, actors and writers wouldn't be the only people affected. Everyone from a film's marketing team, which often capitalizes on an Academy Award win, to the celebrity stylists, manicurists as well as the limousine drivers would be left without work during Oscar season.

The first consideration for many when it comes to the Oscars is obviously the films and their actors, all of which often prosper from the publicity that comes with taking home the famous gold statue.

"There's a core group of films that pretty much base their whole release strategy on the Oscars," said Chad Hartigan, a box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. "The films that are coming out now in just New York and L.A. plan to expand -- once in January when the nominations come out and they see how they fair and then if the Oscars go their way they'll expand again."

Oscar nominations and awards have made a huge difference to a film's success, according to Hartigan, who said that "Brokeback Mountain" made 70 percent of its total gross after the Oscar nominations.

"Everybody wants to see the movies that are up for awards, and they want to be able to have their own educated opinion [before watching the ceremonies]," said Hartigan.