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Contract talks resume in Hollywood

Hollywood's screenwriters and producers are back in talks with studios and networks.
/ Source: Reuters

Hollywood’s screenwriters resumed contract talks Wednesday with film studios and TV networks after a two-day break in negotiations that ran past the weekend expiration of their old labor pact.

Bargaining teams for the 11,000-member Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers exchanged fresh proposals before adjourning talks on Sunday, the two parties said.

Both sides have said all issues remain on the table but declined to discuss details of the negotiations.

Going into the talks in April, both sides said they expected to clash over union demands for higher residuals, the bonus payments writers earn as their material enters secondary markets like cable TV reruns, overseas distribution and DVDs.

DVD residuals, in particular, have emerged as a bone of contention as the booming digital video market generates more than $16 billion a year worldwide.

Studios have said increased residuals are out of the question in light of rising production expenses and other factors that make it harder to recoup their costs. Guild leaders accuse studios of “pleading poverty” at a time when the entertainment industry is earning healthy profits.

Other issues include guild demands for greater industry contributions to the union’s health care and pension plans and jurisdiction over the booming “reality” TV genre.

Residuals were the main stumbling block in down-to-the-wire talks three years ago that ended with a settlement three days after the guild’s previous contract lapsed. Hollywood’s writers last went on strike in 1988 in a 22-day walkout that delayed the start of that fall’s TV season.

Both sides have played down the possibility of a strike this time. But the outcome of the bargaining will likely influence the studios’ separate negotiations this fall with actors and directors.