Studios hit back at actors over ‘Hobbit’

New Line, Warner Bros., MGM dispute boycott

New Line, Warner Bros. and MGM are hitting back at actors unions for their boycott of “The Hobbit,” disputing allegations that New Zealand actors are being treated unfairly.

The studios issued the statement Monday night, a day after “Hobbit” exec producer Peter Jackson blasted the unions over the boycott.

And they also said that they were considering moving the production from New Zealand to avoid a potential disruption.

The seven major actors unions announced the boycott Friday, blaming the refusal of producers to negotiate a union contract for New Zealand performers.

The unions were not immediately available to comment. The joint statement issued Friday said that they were hopeful that a deal covering New Zealand performers could be worked out.

“The Hobbit” has still not been greenlit by MGM and New Line, which is part of Warner Bros., and Jackson has not committed to direct in the wake of Guillermo Del Toro’s departure in May.

The studios’ statement said that while they are “proud” of their good relations with the unions, the assertions regarding the New Zealand actor are unfair and baseless.

The studios repeated Jackson’s assertion that it would be illegal for them to sign a collective bargaining agreement with the New Zealand actors because they are repped through an Australian union — a stance that the unions have already dismissed as nonsense.

Complete Statement:

New Line, Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures are concerned by the recent allegations of unfair treatment of actors in New Zealand and instructions from the performers’ guilds to their membership to withhold services from the producers of “The Hobbit” in New Zealand. We are proud to have good relations with all of those performers’ guilds and value their contribution to the motion pictures produced in their respective jurisdictions throughout the world. But we believe that in this case the allegations are baseless and unfair to Peter Jackson and his team in Wellington who have been tireless supporters of the New Zealand motion picture community.

To classify the production as “non-union” is inaccurate. The cast and crew are being engaged under collective bargaining agreements where applicable and we are mindful of the rights of those individuals pursuant to those agreements. And while we have previously worked with MEAA, an Australian union now seeking to represent actors in New Zealand, the fact remains that there cannot be any collective bargaining with MEAA on this New Zealand production, for to do so would expose the production to liability and sanctions under New Zealand law. This legal prohibition has been explained to MEAA. We are disappointed that MEAA has nonetheless continued to pursue this course of action.

Motion picture production requires the certainty that a production can reasonably proceed without disruption and it is our general policy to avoid filming in locations where there is potential for work force uncertainty or other forms of instability. As such, we are exploring all alternative options in order to protect our business interests.

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