Studios cautious as strike nears possible end

Fri Feb 8, 2008 2:17am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik and Leslie Simmons

NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Even if Hollywood writers end their three-month-old strike soon, as the buzz seems to suggest, studios will be reluctant to ramp up development too aggressively because they must still contend with a possible walkout by actors in June.

"There's a lot we can do now (in the case of a resolution) that we couldn't do during the writers strike. But there's still a lot we can't do," said one studio executive.

The timing of the potential resolution between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the bargaining arm of the studios -- less than five months before a potential actors strike -- means there will be no immediate greenlights based on the work of returning writers.

Still, development projects frozen at the beginning of November can now finally begin to thaw.

Among them is DreamWorks' "The Trials of the Chicago 7," Steven Spielberg's narrative take on the 1968 riots at the Democratic National Convention.

The project has a finished script, but because it is deemed to be heavily dependent on writing, Spielberg is said to want more script adjustments. If the strike ends next week, the project could still shoot in the spring, just under the wire of a possible strike by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which has aggressively backed the WGA. SAG's contract with the studios expires June 30.

If the WGA doesn't vote to end the stoppage imminently, though, sources said the production likely would be pushed until after a possible SAG strike.

Meanwhile, productions with known script issues -- including "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" at Fox and Warner Bros.' "Justice League" -- are expected to get fast-tracked once writers return to the scene.   Continued...

<p>Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg opens the announcements of the nominations for the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in West Hollywood, California, December 20, 2007. REUTERS/Phil McCarten (</p>