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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood's striking writers scored two victories on Monday by forcing Golden Globe Awards sponsors to cancel their traditional star-studded telecast and by reaching a deal to put writers back to work at Tom Cruise's film company.
With most nominees and presenters expected to boycott the Globes on January 13 rather than cross writers' picket lines, organizers said they were scrapping the usual gala ceremony in favor of an hour-long "press conference" to be carried live as a news event on NBC.
The Writers Guild of America previously refused to grant a special waiver allowing the Globes' producers to hire union writers, as the WGA did for Monday night's lower-profile Critics Choice Awards airing on cable channel VH1.
Cancellation of the annual three-hour-plus Golden Globes show sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association marks the latest casualty of the nine-week-old strike by some 10,500 WGA members against the major film and TV studios.
The Globes are closely watched as an indicator of likely nominees for the Oscars, Hollywood's top film honors, which also are under threat of WGA picketing next month. The wartime romantic epic "Atonement" leads this year's field of Globe contenders with a total of seven nominations, including a bid for best film drama.
The strike already has brought production to a halt on all scripted prime-time TV series and derailed several high-profile movie projects, idling thousands of behind-the-camera workers in the worst labor clash to hit Hollywood in two decades.
Negotiations aimed at ending the walkout collapsed last month in a hail of finger-pointing and angry rhetoric. The main sticking point has been disagreement over how writers should be paid for work distributed over the Internet.
Last month, producers for yet another show set for Tuesday night on CBS, the People's Choice Awards, decided their annual coronation of favorite film and TV stars as chosen by the public would be presented in a pre-taped "magazine" format rather as a typical awards gala.
The usual red carpet entrance of People's Choice stars was also scrapped. NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said it was undecided whether the red carpet would be rolled out for their event, and if so, whether it would be televised.
But the Globes spectacle, which rivals only the Oscars in glamour and glitz, was certain to be a markedly toned-down affair.
HFPA president Jorge Camara said his roughly 90-member group was "very disappointed" that "millions of viewers worldwide will be deprived of seeing many of their favorite stars celebrating 2007's outstanding achievements in motion pictures and television."
A WGA spokesman said just before Camara's announcement that the union would stick with plans to picket the Globes if the original producers, Dick Clark Prods., remain on board. An NBC spokeswoman said the scaled-back event would be produced instead by NBC's news division.
The change was not expected to alter the dynamic of the standoff between the WGA and major studios, but it represented another symbolic victory for the writers.
Earlier in the day, United Artists, the film production house part-owned by Tom Cruise, broke with parent studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc to reach a deal enabling striking writers to return to work UA's movies.
UA became the first Hollywood movie company to clinch an independent accord with the WGA since the strike began on November 5. No details of the UA agreement were disclosed, but the union and the company said the deal is "comprehensive" and "addresses the issues important to writers, including new media."
The UA pact is similar to a recent agreement between the WGA and the production company owned by late-night TV host David Letterman that allowed his show and another one produced by his firm, Worldwide Pants, to return to the air last week with their writing teams intact.
Industry sources said at least two other independent film companies, the Weinstein Co and Lionsgate Entertainment Co, were considering similar agreements with the WGA.
Editing by Eric Walsh