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Awards

Gold Standard: Hollywood Film Awards billed as the launch of awards season, but CBS won’t air it this year

Hollywood Film Awards
Hollywood Film Awards founder and producer Carlos de Abreu.
(Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images)

Until last year, the only people who saw the Hollywood Film Awards were the A-list recipients and their teams, movie studio executives and publicists, journalists and the waitstaff at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

That changed in 2014 when CBS and Dick Clark Productions, an investment partner in the show, began what was announced as a “multi-year broadcast agreement” to televise the November ceremony, which bills itself as the “official launch of the award season.”

And still, pretty much the only people who saw the Hollywood Film Awards were the recipients, their teams and the rest.

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Following dismal ratings, CBS and the Hollywood Film Awards have parted ways and the awards will not be broadcast on the network, according to both CBS and Dick Clark Productions.

It’s a stark turnaround for a show that had been attempting to follow the status trajectory of the Golden Globes, another Dick Clark Productions event that, over the years, has moved from punchline to a TV-ratings powerhouse.

“We’re designing this as the ‘greatest-kept secret in Hollywood,’” CBS Executive Vice President Jack Sussman told The Times last year, pointing to the 31/2 primetime hours the network blocked off for the show. “We believe in this franchise.”

That belief proved fleeting after the show’s initial broadcast on Nov. 14, 2014, averaged just 4.1 million viewers, at the time the smallest broadcast network audience of the season.

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This year’s Hollywood Film Awards, its 19th, will be held Nov. 1 at the Beverly Hilton with clips from the ceremony packaged online. Robert De Niro will receive a career achievement award. Other recipients will be announced in the coming weeks.

The CBS bailout does not seem to have dampened Hollywood’s eagerness to promote its awards-season fare on the red carpet outside the Hilton. Movie studios have been jockeying for months, multiple sources say, to secure prime spots on the show. Because of the ceremony’s early calendar date — about two months before the Globes — such spots are coveted for their promotional value.

Studios have long enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Hollywood Film Awards and its founders, Mozambique-born entrepreneur Carlos de Abreu and his wife, former “The Price Is Right” model Janice Pennington. Honors have sometimes been given to movies and performers sight unseen, with winners joking on stage about the strangeness of receiving an award for a movie that’s still in the editing room.

Dick Clark Productions executives say that the winners are chosen by De Abreu and a 12-member selection team. The identities of the panel have remained confidential so “studios won’t lobby them for votes,” Dick Clark Productions programming executive Mark Bracco told The Times last year.

But multiple awards-season campaigners paint a different picture, saying that the primary measure for winning is simply a willingness to show up for the ceremony.

Last year, for example, organizers reached out to David Fincher (“Gone Girl”) and Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar”) for its director award. Both passed. Two weeks before the event and after a strong showing at the Gotham Awards, Richard Linklater was asked if he’d accept for “Boyhood.”

But Linklater was shooting a movie in Texas, the college-set “Everybody Wants Some” and declined to alter his schedule at the last minute to fly to Los Angeles.

And that’s how “The Imitation Game’s” Morten Tyldum took the Hollywood Film Awards honor for best director.

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“Everybody knows these are negotiations and not awards,” says a veteran Oscar consultant, speaking anonymously to protect his clients from fallout. “But I will tell you that at every studio meeting I’ve had this year, one of the first questions I’m asked is: ‘What’s happening with the Hollywood Film Awards?’ The’re first, so they matter because ... you know ... it’s great publicity.”

MORE:

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A memorable Emmys? Yes. So why did most viewers skip out?


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