Contract talks between studios and actors unions will resume next Wednesday, 10 days after breaking off, amid a murky outlook for reaching a deal.
A joint statement issued Friday gave no further details about the negotiations, citing an ongoing news blackout. Knowledgeable sources have said the two sides were making progress toward a deal but that the talks, which launched Dec. 6, will probably need to continue for at least several more days to get to the give-and-take of moving toward a tentative agreement.
The film-TV contract for SAG and AFTRA with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers doesn’t expire until June 30, so five months remain in which to make a deal without a work stoppage. But should a deal not be forthcoming in the next few weeks, the stalemate’s likely to generate a flurry of production activity in order to stockpile against a possible strike.
Studios and nets ramped up production during the first half of 2001 when first the Writers Guild and then the actors unions took bargaining down to the wire. After SAG and AFTRA made a deal with producers in July 2001, production activity plunged and created what many observers termed a de facto strike.
One key issue remains the producers’ rock-hard resistance to SAG and AFTRA’s effort to win an increase in the 20-year-old formula for homevideo residuals. The unions feel compelled to seek more amid soaring revenues for DVDs while the companies insist that spiraling costs of filmmaking and marketing make the DVD monies essential to remain in the black, precluding any change in payout formulas.
SAG and AFTRA had been expected to opt for contracts similar to those reached by the DGA and WGA last fall. Those deals included gains of about $60 million over three years, with two-thirds of that coming in the form of increased producer contributions to health care, but no gains on DVDs or reality TV jurisdiction.