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Saturday, 6 January, 2001, 07:47 GMT
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Julia Roberts
Julia Roberts was the People's Choice in 2000
The US has more than 30 film industry award ceremonies between now and the Oscars. BBC News Online's New York entertainment correspondent Tom Brook tells us why.

The Hollywood season for self-congratulation gets under way officially this weekend with The People's Choice Awards.

The starry ceremony sees trophies handed out to top names in movies, television and music.

Between now and Oscars night on 25 March the US film industry alone will be paying tribute to itself with a dizzying array of more than 30 different awards ceremonies.

Prizes are handed out for all kinds of movie-related activity - everything from the Makeup Artist & Hair Stylist Guild Awards to the Golden Trailer Awards, saluting excellence in movie trailers.

Catherine Zeta Jones
Catherine Zeta Jones' film Traffic is piling up the awards
But The People's Choice Awards, now in its 27th year, can at least claim to be one of more established showbiz fixtures.

The ceremony always gets a large celebrity turnout, largely because the winners are notified in advance.

No Hollywood star is going to turn down an opportunity to bathe in a few moments of media-saturated awards show glory.

Julia Roberts is widely tipped to win The People's Choice Award for favourite motion picture actress.

She knows her presence at the ceremony could help her campaign to win an Oscar nomination for her role in Erin Brokovich.

But unlike other awards shows, The People's Choice carries little weight as a pointer to Oscars glory.

One of the main reasons why award events have proliferated in recent years is because of the publicity opportunities they offer

The cut-off date for films eligible for The People's Choice Awards is 31 October, so many of the end of the year releases, which are often potential Oscar contenders, are excluded by the deadline.

And the voting members of the public tend to be more influenced by the power of celebrity than Oscar voters.

The People's Choice Awards will be followed on 9 January by AFI 2000, a new addition to the pre-Oscars awards frenzy.

The American Film Institute (AFI) will announce its 10 most outstanding films of the year 2000, plus up to five "major moments" of movie significance.

This latter category of "major moments" could be the death of a movie figure, a new technological innovation or a special cinema anniversary or phenomenon.

The jurors will consist of a panel that will include film directors, scholars and critics with national reputations.

The AFI hopes their choices will help focus attention on what was noteworthy about a particular film, because it will honour the entire creative team of a movie and not just its star.

One of the main reasons why award events have proliferated in recent years is because of the publicity opportunities they offer.

 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Los Angeles film critics may have helped Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Oscar chances
With some shows, like the Blockbuster and Moviefone awards, the benefits accrue to the sponsors as much as they do to the stars.

Even with the less commercial various guild events such as the Screen Actors' Guild awards, a high-profile ceremony does a lot to promote the organisation.

Another driving force leading to the spread of awards shows is the multiplicity of media outlets, which has created a gigantic hunger for celebrity saturated programming.

Awards ceremonies are ideal fodder that can often bring in big audiences.

Most film industry professionals break through the clutter of awards shows just concentrating on a few key pre-Oscar events which are thought of as useful guides as to how Academy members might cast their votes.

There is no doubt that the various film critics groups can at the very least bring certain films to the attention of Academy members.

The Academy and the Directors' Guild have chosen the same director in 48 of the past 52 years

This year the New York Film Critics' Circle voted Steven Soderbergh's war-on-drugs epic Traffic best film of the year, which has probably helped its Oscar chances.

The same applies to the Los Angeles Film Critics, who picked Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as their best film, perhaps persuading Oscar voters to consider a film they might have overlooked.

The Golden Globes ceremony on 21 January is generally regarded as one of the more significant Oscars bellwethers.

Statistically, the Globes' choice of best picture has coincided with the Oscar winner 41 times in the last 57 years.

The Directors' Guild Award (DGA) has also become an extremely reliable indicator of who will win an Oscar.

When the Directors Guild hands out its best director trophy on 10 March the recipient stands a very high chance of winning the best director Academy Award on Oscars night two weeks later.

The Academy and the DGA have chosen the same director in 48 of the past 52 years.

But even though awards shows continue to multiply they have been unable to detract from the power and mystique of the Academy Awards.

The Oscar remains one of the most powerful icons in the movie business, a trophy that can transform careers, boost salaries and, when awarded, often reduce its grateful recipients to a state of babbling incoherency.

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