Hollywood actors and studios to renew labor talks

Thu May 15, 2008 6:57pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Screen Actors Guild and major Hollywood studios agreed to return to the bargaining table by May 28 to resume contract talks that broke off more than a week ago, sources close to the talks said on Thursday.

Renewing talks by then will give the parties a little more than four weeks to reach a deal before the existing contract covering some 120,000 television and film actors expires June 30, a date many studios are treating as a de facto strike deadline.

The two sides launched formal talks on April 15 and twice agreed to extend their sessions in hopes of preserving labor peace in an entertainment industry still recovering from a 100-day walkout by screenwriters that ended in February.

But the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, cut off negotiations on May 6, saying momentum had been "thrust into reverse" by "unreasonable demands" from the union.

Stumbling blocks cited by both sides included union proposals for more generous "residual" payments earned by actors from sales of DVDs and for online streaming of entertainment content.

The studios in turn rankled SAG by seeking new rules allowing them to use TV and movie clips on the Internet without first getting the consent of actors who appear in them.

The next day, studios opened separate talks on a prime-time TV contract with SAG's smaller sister union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, widely seen as more likely to get a labor deal quickly.

TIMING KEY   Continued...

<p>A sculptor works at a sand park exhibition in Pera, southern Portugal May 4, 2008. REUTERS/Hugo Correia</p>