Contract Expires Today for Actors


With their contract expiring at midnight tonight, negotiators for Hollywood studios and actors guilds continued marathon talks to close in on a new three-year deal that would end the threat of a crippling strike.

Some sources said they hoped a deal could be reached by Sunday, but by late Friday it was still unclear whether that goal could be met. They also warned that labor talks are almost always fragile and unpredictable as contracts expire.

A studio spokesman said the companies presented a comprehensive offer late Friday to union negotiators and went home, leaving actors to analyze the details into the night.

Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, negotiators met at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers headquarters in Encino and were expected to work late into the night.

Both sides abided by a self-imposed news blackout that started when they began talks May 15. But they opened a newsroom Friday afternoon at AMPTP headquarters for those monitoring the talks.

Chances of a strike are considered remote, largely because Hollywood writers successfully negotiated a new deal with studios in May, and the desire by actors to strike is considered low in the wake of a painful six-month strike last year against advertisers.

Still, tensions over pay issues have nonetheless heightened since negotiations stepped up two weeks ago.

One source close to the talks said the two sides have been narrowing their discussions to a handful of key issues. They include payments for work that runs on cable TV, minimum scales for actors, compensation when work airs in foreign markets and some kind of sweetener for struggling middle-class actors who make less than $70,000 a year.

Despite the contract expiration, the deadlines are not concrete. Talks could be extended as long as it takes to make a deal.

Historically, however, Hollywood labor deals usually come no later than a couple of days after contracts expire.

Even in the unlikely event that talks implode, actors would not strike immediately because they would need to organize a strike vote, which could take as long as a month.

Actors are represented by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, with studios represented by the AMPTP.

One subtle sign that tensions have not gotten out of hand is that some of the key figures on both sides are going ahead with personal plans. SAG President William Daniels is in Santa Barbara today celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. On the studio side, Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer is heading to Hawaii on vacation.

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