January 10, 2008 / 12:24 AM / 11 years ago

Warner warns 1,000 workers to expect some layoffs

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Warner Bros, a unit of Time Warner Inc, has told about 1,000 television and film production workers that an unspecified number of layoffs will soon be announced due to Hollywood’s screenwriters strike.

Members of the Writers Guild of America carry picket signs as they cross an intersection at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California November 5, 2007. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

“These WARN notices were sent because, in certain circumstances, federal and California law can require employers to give notice of staffing changes,” Warner Bros said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Due to the ongoing Writers Guild of America work stoppage, some studio divisions will have to lay off employees. We regret the impact this will have on our employees, and we hope to bring them back to work once the WGA strike ends,” it said.

About 10,500 WGA members went on strike against major film and TV studios on November 5 in a contract dispute centered mainly on the issue of compensation for work distributed on the Web.

The strike has halted production on scores of TV shows and derailed several film projects.

FilmL.A. Inc, a nonprofit group that handles production permits for the city, estimates the TV industry stands to lose $21.3 million a day from shutdowns of 65 prime-time broadcast and cable shows that are shot in the Los Angeles area.

Those shows — 44 one-hour dramas and 21 half-hour sitcoms — collectively employ well over 10,000 people whose loss of income will ripple through the local economy, the group said.

The dispute is also now casting a dark shadow over this year’s Hollywood awards season, with the Golden Globe Awards becoming the most high-profile casualty to date.

On Monday, General Electric Co’s NBC was forced to modify the Golden Globe Awards broadcast, set for January 13, from its usual glitzy affair to a scaled-back news conference, since actors said they would boycott the show to honor writers’ picket lines.

NBC is offering cash back to some Golden Globe Awards marketers after the network scrapped the star-studded telecast, which typically generates about $25 million in advertising, advertising and network executives said.

Since talks between writers and studios broke down in December, the WGA has sought to make deals with independent producers in an effort to divide and conquer Big Hollywood.

This week, the WGA signed a deal with Tom Cruise’s film company, United Artists, owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

While the Cruise deal and the Globes’ derailment mark interim victories for the writers, no end is in sight for the strike without plans for further negotiations.

Industry insiders said on Wednesday peoples’ minds as well as their pockets were bearing the brunt.

“The impact of the strike on the Southern California economy is happening in two realms - the realm of reality and the realm of psychology,” said Michael Levine, a veteran public relations professional, who has represented stars such as Demi Moore and Barbra Streisand.

“There’s a feeling that this strike is part of a perfect storm, with anxiety over real estate, the economy and historically higher gas prices all coming together,” he said. “It’s pretty noxious.”

Editing by Carol Bishopric and Braden Reddall

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