Can the Critics Choice Awards Replace the Golden Globes?


Does Hollywood need the Golden Globes? NBC’s cancellation of the 2022 broadcast has prompted soul-searching in an industry that’s suddenly without the most widely known Oscars precursor, at least for this coming year. The small, eccentric Hollywood Foreign Press Association—under fire for the exclusionary nature of its membership as well as the seemingly transactional relationships it had developed with various studios—turned its annual prizes into a crucial bellwether through sheer willpower: aggressive campaigns, splashy network marketing, and a consistently excellent turnout of A-list nominees. The show was popular, save for 2021’s COVID-forced virtual fiasco; it carried value, if only for the visibility it offered contenders just getting started on the trail.

So there’s a gap to fill next year—and maybe longer-term too, depending on if and how the Globes return. And the annual Critics Choice Awards, which air on The CW and are voted on by members of the Critics Choice Association, has been working diligently and publicly to fill that open slot. 

After the Globes’ cancellation, the CCA swiftly snagged the other show’s 2022 air date, January 9, for itself. The organization then announced a new international branch, adding roughly 30 members that will, if they meet requirements, both vote on the main Critics Choice Awards and shape a new, globally targeted “World Movie Awards” ceremony. Reports surfaced that the CCA was even vying to take over the Globes’ iconic home, the Beverly Hilton, for its 2022 show. 

The attempt at usurpation couldn’t be more obvious—and the CCA’s CEO, Joey Berlin, is fine with that perception. “It’s one thing to replace the Globes, but we want to be bigger and better,” Berlin tells Vanity Fair. “Better is really important.”

For any awards campaign, Academy visibility is the central goal—a clear signal to Oscar voters that a given film or performance is worth seeking out and celebrating. This is where the Golden Globes have always come in. Yes, the awards do not have much practical influence; historically, Globes nominations alone do not correlate with eventual Oscar recognition. But when a surprise Globes winner—say, last year’s drama-actress champ and eventual Oscar nominee Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holiday)—gets a victory lap on national television, the impact on a campaign can be substantial. Similarly, due to the sheer buzz around the Golden Globes ceremony, Oscar narratives often start to form there. (And frequently, those narratives are wrong; of this year’s Golden Globe acting winners, only Daniel Kaluuya repeated his victory at the Oscars.)

The Critics Choice Awards, similarly, have always managed a strong nominee turnout, if not quite at the Globes’ level. The ceremony also brings greater reputability thanks to the journalists and critics involved. “All of a sudden, there’s a tremendous wind at our back,” Berlin says. “Big studios, including the ascendant streamers, have an awards department—and key people, plus all these awards consultants and publicists, were calling us in the spring as the HFPA was imploding, telling us that the industry is looking for the Critics Choice Awards to move up and take the place of the Globes.” (Vanity Fair has confirmed that multiple insiders did indeed reach out to the CCA.)

Meanwhile, apparent discontent among HFPA members persists. Two have publicly resigned, and tension remains between them and the Hollywood publicists who’ve banded together to reform the Globes. Encouraging signs of progress—amending outdated rules for recognizing non-English-language films, ending the practice of accepting studio gifts—continue to arrive in a steady but quiet stream. “I hope it’s not too little too late,” says one high-level studio source. “I hope it works. We haven’t written them off forever; we’re hopeful, but we’ll have to see.”

In a recent joint letter, though, former HFPA members Wenting Xu and Diederik van Hoogstraten cast doubt on the group’s capacity for real reform: “The majority of the membership resists deep change, despite our lawyers and spokespersons suggesting otherwise publicly.”

Like the HFPA, the CCA doles out film and TV awards in a single ceremony. But as Berlin points out, the CCA has a far better track record in terms of legitimacy and transparency, featuring nearly 500 members who are publicly named on its website, as well as a newly robust international contingent. Those inside the CCA have gone so far as to discuss absorbing the more “legitimate” journalists in the HFPA, a source in the organization says.

There’s a lot of respect within Hollywood for the Critics Choice Awards as well, judging from conversations with awards insiders. (At least for its main awards; offshoots like the Super Awards, which honor largely comic-book-based fare, are taken far less seriously.) Citing CCA initiatives like the SeeHer Award and its annual celebration of Black cinema, the studio source says, “They’ve been very aware of representation and diversity, and it’s felt very real. They did this stuff when nobody else was doing it. They dug in…. This group is smart and proactive.” 

The question is whether the CCA can transcend the media bubble and reach a wider audience—and in turn, Academy voters. “All the noise is important. It’s all the noise you want,” says an industry veteran who’s worked on several top awards campaigns. “That’s why people do this in the first place.” But in the mad dash for votes, awards seekers are looking more to peer groups like the Screen Actors Guild, which is returning to a live in-person show in 2022 after this year’s taped experiment, to get behind their contenders.

While it has never been a ratings hit, SAG too attracts talent and could conceivably fill the Globes vacuum. It may even be a more natural fit: The guild’s membership overlaps considerably with the Academy’s, giving its prizes more weight, and nominee attendance is closer to that of the Globes—that is, near perfect.   

The CCA’s attempt to move its show to the Beverly Hilton was a clear bid to replace the Globes in 2022, at least symbolically. The tactic did not pan out, apparently in part because of the machine around the HFPA. (The company MRC owns Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes; its chair, Todd Boehly, has a financial stake in the Beverly Hilton.) Sources close to the CCA believe that those in the HFPA–Dick Clark orbit prevented the Beverly Hilton from hosting the Critics Choice Awards. (Dick Clark Productions did not respond to a request for comment for this story.) 

In late June, Variety reported that “the HFPA looks to be blocking any such efforts as the CCA has been unable to secure the venue for its telecast due to the Beverly Hilton management receiving pushback about releasing the dates.” Responding to the report, the HFPA told Variety, “The HFPA values its longstanding relationship with the Hilton…. However, the organization is focused on its reform efforts and working on the transformational changes it has already announced and has made no other plans for the show at this time.” Vanity Fair can confirm that the CCA will host its 2022 show at the Fairmont Century Plaza, which reopens this fall after a $2-billion-plus renovation. 

But those inside Hollywood see one other problem with the CCA trying to take the Phase One mantle from the HFPA: its network. “The CW—that’s a nonstarter,” the studio source says. Others in the awards sphere express similar concerns, including about the quality of the production. (The 2020 Critics Choice Awards broadcast was watched by a little more than 1 million viewers live, according to Variety; the 2020 Globes, in contrast, nabbed about 18.3 million viewers.)

The CCA is aware of the hurdle. “The Globes [is] the party of the year. It gets all the film and television stars in one room, and then branches out with lots of after-parties in one place,” Berlin says. “It is a wonderful launching pad for awards contenders because of all the breathless coverage of the same night…. This year, our intention is to provide the industry and the public with that party of the year and fill that vacuum.”

Vanity Fair has learned that The CW has started talks with potential network partners to expand the Critics Choice Awards’ audience and footprint, though a network source familiar with The CW’s 2022 plans for the show says it’s still too early to tell whether anything will come of them. It feels safe to say, though, that the CCA and The CW are aligned to make a real play for the Globes’ influence.

Those watching from behind the scenes, and slowly putting together Phase One campaigns for their top Oscar contenders, aren’t so fixated on the power struggle. Their ultimate goals and strategies remain fundamentally fixed, with or without a Globes alternative. “At the end of the day, an Oscar campaign is just about getting people to see the movie,” the industry veteran says. 

Will the CCA be able to make a difference in that regard? The voting body may be legitimate, and it can certainly bring a star-studded group into a glitzy, trophy-stuffed ballroom. A slightly increased profile for the ceremony in 2022, at minimum, feels inevitable. Says Berlin, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the Critics Choice Awards.” 

The big test, now, is whether enough players in Hollywood agree.

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