Studios and actors remain at odds

Thu May 1, 2008 4:38am EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With two days left before a self-imposed deadline in contract talks with actors, major Hollywood studios said on Wednesday the two sides remained far from a deal and that excessive union demands were to blame.

The statement from the studios' bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, stoked concerns about renewed labor strife in the aftermath of a 100-day strike by screenwriters that ended in February.

The current three-year contract covering 120,000 film and TV actors expires on June 30.

The AMPTP statement also marks the most extensive public comment by either side since the Screen Actors Guild and studios opened negotiations on April 15 under what had been a strict media blackout.

Among stumbling blocks cited were SAG's demand for a doubling of residual fees actors earn from DVDs and changes it sought in a new-media pay structure already embraced by writers and directors. The studios said those demands "would result in enormous cost increases that we are not willing to accept."

Last week, the parties agreed to extend a two-week window for negotiations by a third week, until May 2, hoping to close what the studios then called "significant gaps" between them.

The extension was seen as a hopeful sign that a settlement was within reach. But in Wednesday's updated notice to member companies posted online, the AMPTP said little additional progress had been made.

"Although both parties have spent considerable time in the negotiating room, we are not yet close to an agreement," the studios said. "We still have two days of negotiations remaining with SAG, and we are going to continue to work as hard as we can to find a mutually acceptable resolution."   Continued...

<p>Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>