May 2, 2008 / 9:34 PM / 9 years ago

Hollywood actors and studios extend labor talks again

<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>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Screen Actors Guild and major Hollywood studios said on Friday they have agreed to a another extension of their contract talks, this one on a day-by-day basis, in hopes of closing a deal by next Tuesday.

The announcement, coming as the parties neared a previous self-imposed deadline, heightened prospects that they could preserve labor peace in the entertainment industry following a 100-day strike by screenwriters that ended in February.

The current three-year SAG contract covering 120,000 film and television actors expires on June 30, but the two sides had planned to negotiate through Friday in hopes of clinching a settlement.

The actors union and the studios’ bargaining agent, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said in a joint statement that they would continue their negotiations “on a day-to-day basis” through next Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. PDT (8:00 p.m. EDT/midnight GMT), except for a day off on Sunday.

There was no further comment from either party.

But a source familiar with the course of negotiations said SAG had scaled back a number of demands that were considered major points of contention.

In one such concession, the source said, the union was now seeking what would effectively be a 15 percent increase in residual payments actors earn from DVDs, rather than a doubling of the DVD residual rate.

Striking writers had been forced to give up demands for higher DVD residuals altogether in reaching their contract deal with studios more than two months ago.

That agreement ultimately hinged on new payments the writers gained for film and TV work delivered over the Internet, an area that actors were hoping to improve on in their own labor talks with producers.

SAG, for example, is reported to be seeking to shorten the three-week window during which studios can stream certain TV programs online without paying residuals to union talent.

But SAG scaled back its demand for a 50 percent pay increase for guest stars on TV shows, according to the Los Angeles Times.

SAG and the studios opened talks April 15 and initially set out to reach an accord in two weeks. But they decided eight days into the negotiations to stay at the bargaining table for a third week, through Friday, to allow more time to narrow what the studios then called “significant gaps.”

Earlier this week the studios declared little progress had been made and that unreasonable SAG demands were to blame. The latest word from the talks signaled a determination by the two sides to avoid a repetition of the acrimony that erupted over the Writers Guild of America contract.

The WGA’s 14-week strike, Hollywood’s worst labor clash in 20 years, shut down much of the TV industry, derailed several film productions and idled thousands of Hollywood workers, costing the local economy an estimated $3 billion.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh

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