WGA signs deal with United Artists

Interim pact allows writers to work for studio

The WGA has agreed to sign an interim deal with United Artists that would allow feature film writers to go back to work for the studio.

Neither the WGA nor UA confirmed the negotiations Saturday but sources familiar with the agreement said a formal announcement will be made on Monday. The deal won’t include MGM, the majority owner of UA.

Specifics of the WGA-UA agreement will be kept under wraps but will likely mirror the terms in the interim pact that guild inked last week with David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants.

The Worldwide Pants and UA deals are part of the WGA’s strategy to “divide and conquer” the industry by negotiating individual agreements, thus enabling the guild to portray itself as a reasonably party in what’s been a bitter dispute with the majors. The guild’s talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers collapsed on Dec. 7 after the AMPTP demanded that the WGA take six proposals off the table as a condition of continuing negotiations; no new talks have been set.

UA jump-started operations in late  2006 with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner coming on board with ownership stakes with invocations of bringing back UA’s artist-friendly tradition. The studio was founded nearly 90 years ago by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith and Mary Pickford.    

The revived UA’s first film, “Lions for Lambs,” performed poorly when it launched in November. UA’s next pic, World War II drama “Valkyrie” is set to open later this year.

The WGA’s deal with Worldwide Pants deal allowed “Late Show With David Letterman” and “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” to begin airing Wednesday on CBS with writers on board and no pickets outside the studio.

The WGA announced the specific terms of the Pants deal Friday, which included provisions for new-media compensation in areas such as Web streaming and paid downloads. That pact also includes a favored nations clause that allows it to revert to whatever terms the WGA and AMPTP eventually settle on.

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