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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Striking Hollywood writers scored twin victories on Monday by forcing Golden Globe Award 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.
Facing a likely boycott by Globe nominees and presenters reluctant to cross picket lines, organizers of the January 13 event said they will scrap the usual gala ceremony in favor of an hourlong "press conference" to be carried live by NBC News.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) previously refused to grant a special waiver permitting the Globes show to go on with union writers, as the WGA allowed 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 about 10,500 WGA members against the major film and TV studios.
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 to end the walkout collapsed last month with the two sides deadlocked over how writers should be paid for work distributed over the Internet.
No new talks are scheduled, and the strike has cast a growing shadow over Hollywood's annual awards season, throwing even the fate of the Oscars, the film industry's highest honors each winter, into doubt.
Producers for yet another show set for Tuesday night on CBS, the People's Choice Awards, plan to present that event in a "magazine" format, airing pre-taped clips of the winners in place of the typical live awards ceremony. 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 much muted affair.
HFPA president Jorge Camara said he 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."
WGA spokesman Jeff Hermanson said the union was still preparing a massive protest of the January 13 event in case it appears that Globes organizers try to put on an awards show under the guise of a news conference.
"If it's truly a press conference that does not take the form of an awards show, we would have no reason to picket it," he told Reuters. "But if it's an awards show under another name, it will be picketed."
He added that the union has held talks with Globe sponsors on a possible deal to allow an awards ceremony that would not be televised, "but those conversations have not led to an agreement. And I don't expect them to."
The Globes cancellation 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 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 Philip Barbara