January 11, 2008 / 12:31 AM / 10 years ago

Weinstein Co. makes deal with striking writers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Weinstein Co., the film and TV company run by sibling media moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein, has reached a deal to allow striking Hollywood writers to return to work for the studio, a company spokesman said on Thursday.

Bob Weinstein (L) and his brother Harvey Weinstein, the founders of The Weinstein Co., an independent motion picture studio, pose in Los Angeles, California June 12, 2007. The Weinstein Co. has reached an agreement that would allow striking Hollywood writers to return to work for the company, a company spokesman said on Thursday. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A formal agreement with the Writers Guild of America, similar to one reached on Monday by Tom Cruise’s production label, United Artists, was expected to be signed and announced by day’s end, spokesman Matthew Frankel told Reuters.

Both Weinstein and United Artists, controlled by Metro Goldwyn-Mayer Inc, are especially vulnerable to strike-related disruptions as they struggle at the box office.

Launched in 2005 by the founders of Miramax Films with nearly $1 billion in funding, Weinstein has suffered a bumpy year with flops like the war-themed drama “Grace is Gone,” Scarlett Johansson comedy “The Nanny Diaries” and the double-horror feature “Grindhouse.”

UA’s first film under new management, the antiwar drama “Lions for Lambs,” co-starring Cruise and director Robert Redford, also drew lackluster ticket sales.

While news of a second high-profile film company defecting from the major studios marked a symbolic victory for the WGA, it was unlikely to change the larger dynamic of Hollywood’s 10-week-old labor clash.

Still, it came on the same day a leading media executive in the dispute suggested a deadlock in contract talks with striking writers might soon be broken.

“We sincerely hope talks begin shortly and that there is a resolution,” CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves told investors at a Citigroup conference in New York City.

“I can tell you there are some steps that are being taken to push that ahead,” Moonves added in one of the few upbeat public assessments from an entertainment CEO in recent weeks.

The WGA launched its strike against major studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, on November 5 in a contract dispute that hinges on how writers should be paid for work distributed on the Internet.

The walkout by 10,500 film and TV writers has thrown the TV industry into disarray, derailed several movie productions and is threatening to spoil the annual year-end awards season.

Negotiations to settle the strike collapsed in acrimony last month, and WGA has since begun pursuing separate agreements with smaller, independent production entities.

Meanwhile, prospects for an overall settlement have been muddied by reports that the Directors Guild of America was holding informal talks with the producers alliance to lay the groundwork for its own contract negotiations to begin soon.

The DGA, whose contract covering 13,000 members expires on June 30, is seen as less militant than the writers and more likely to reach a deal quickly with the studios, one that could undermine the writers’ bargaining position.

Others say the directors might help bring about a speedier end to the writers’ strike by negotiating an agreement with studios that could serve as a template for a WGA settlement.

Frankel said the Weinstein deal is similar to a WGA pact with TV production company Worldwide Pants Inc., owned by late-night TV host David Letterman, that allowed his show to return to the air earlier this month with his writing team.

The Weinstein deal paves the way for that company to resume production of the movie musical “Nine,” an adaptation of the Frederico Fellini classic “8 1/2,” to be directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall.

Weinstein in November postponed work on “Nine” because filmmaker and screenwriter Anthony Minghella was unable to finish a script polish before the strike began. The interim agreement with the WGA would allow Minghella to return to the project, clearing the way for production to resume.

Additional reporting by Gina Keating; editing by Todd Eastham and Cynthia Osterman

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