After taking a deep sign of relief that the Academy has decided to keep the Oscars in February next year as opposed to crashing their traditional January date, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced key dates for the 69th Golden Globe Awards. 

Truthfully, there are only three dates that really matter for the Globes:

Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011 - Final screening date for Motion Pictures
This in effect is the drop dead date for any picture wanting to play the awards season or Oscar game.  It means films such as Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" will have been seen by press (and likely prognosticators) well in advance of it's Dec. 28 opening. Plus, if you show it too late you're in danger of not being able to convince the membership why nominations are needed if they don't warm to it (see the appaling omission of "True Grit" last year).

Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 - Announcement of nominations for “The 69th Annual Golden Globe® Awards”

Holiday box office can be won ("King's Speech," "Black Swan") or lost ("Rabbit Hole") on the number of nominations a limited release film lands.  It also gets the West Coast media back into their "Dear god, we have to get up at 5:00 AM again" routine.

Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012: Presentation of “The 69th Annual Golden Globe® Awards”
The big show.  It doesn't do much to influence Oscar nominations (that deadline is the 13th this year), but it's a big publicity boost in the long run and can help influence guild voters (see "King's Speech" surprising SAG ensemble win last year).

Of course, the most eyebrow raising aspect of the HFPA's release this morning was the absence of two words "NBC" and "Broadcast."  That's most likely because the HFPA is still in a legal dispute with Dick Clark Production and NBC over a new deal to air the show.  Dick Clark Productions (no longer associated with its namesake) signed a contract with NBC for a new deal without consulting the HFPA.  Furious, the HFPA is suing them even though DC Productions insists it has the right to act in the best interest of the Globes in its contract with the HFPA.  How this messy situation will be resolved likely won't occur until September when a trial in federal court is expected to begin.  So, when the HFPA says "presentation" they clearly seem willing to go with no network (or production company) in 2012 if the case is not resolved.  Of course, considering how lucrative the Globes are for NBC in ad sales (17 million viewers in 2011, up slightly over 2010) it's hard to believe we'll return to the bizarre WGA strike affected press conference of 2008 (the best in person seats I've ever had for the Globes).  So, fearless year-round awards watchers…stay tuned...

For those that are true Globe affeciandos have your calendar handy to mark all these dates down:

Friday, Oct. 28, 2011: Final date for press conferences for Television entries
Friday, Nov. 4, 2011: Deadline for submission of Golden Globe entry forms
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011: Cecil B. DeMille Award Announcement
Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011: Deadline for nomination ballots to be mailed to all HFPA members by Ernst & Young
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011: Final screening date for Motion Pictures
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011: Final date for Motion Picture press conferences
Monday, Dec. 12, 2011: Deadline for receipt of nomination ballots by Ernst & Young
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011: Announcement of nominations for “The 69th Annual Golden Globe® Awards”
Friday, Dec. 16, 2011: Deadline for receipt of media credential applications
Monday, Dec. 26, 2011: Final ballots mailed to all HFPA members
Friday, Dec. 30, 2011: Deadline for receipt of publicist credential applications
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012: Deadline for receipt of final ballots by Ernst & Young
Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012: Presentation of “The 69th Annual Golden Globe® Awards”