Striking writers, studios renew talks as hopes fade
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Striking film and television writers returned to the bargaining table with studio executives on Tuesday amid fading optimism for a speedy settlement to Hollywood's worst labor crisis in 20 years.
The two sides resumed contract negotiations as 10,500 members of the Writers Guild of America hit the one-month mark of a walkout that has idled production on dozens of TV shows and several high-profile movies, including a planned sequel to "The Da Vinci Code."
Prospects for a quick deal seemed to soar when the parties agreed last month to renew formal negotiations for the first time since the work stoppage began on November 5, following months of rancor over how much writers should be paid for their work on the Internet.
But hopes were quickly dashed as the resulting four-day round of talks ended last Thursday with union leaders lifting a media blackout to sharply criticize a management offer touted by the studios as "groundbreaking."
Studio executives reacted with dismay, disparaging union leaders in a wave of published but anonymous comments as being more interested in stoking antagonism than in making a deal.
The studios' bargaining entity, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, struck a more conciliatory tone in an open letter that ran on Tuesday as an advertisement in the entertainment trade paper Daily Variety.
"Ours is not a 'take it or leave it' offer," the AMPTP statement said. "It is designed to allow both sides to engage in the kind of substantive give-and-take negotiation that can lead to common ground."
The WGA was expected this week to present a counteroffer. Continued...