Hollywood studios made a "final offer" late Monday to the Screen Actors Guild hours before their labor contract with the largest actors union was set to expire.
The offer included benefits similar to those granted to writers, directors and the industry's smaller actors union, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers told Bloomberg News.
The entertainment industry is in a "de facto strike" with film production nearly shut down and television production threatened, said the alliance, the bargaining entity for Time Warner Inc., Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and other studios.
At the same time, however, producers sent the clearest sign yet that they wouldn't lock out actors if negotiators didn't settle on a contract before the current pact expired early today.
Ads in trade publications argued that the entertainment industry had suffered enough from previous work stoppages over contract disputes.
"Let's keep working," the alliance said in full-page ads in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
The ads cited figures from the Milken Institute showing that the 100-day writers strike that ended in February had put more than 37,000 people out of work and resulted in $2.3 billion in lost wages.
The Screen Actors Guild appeared ready to keep negotiating, saying Sunday that it had not called for a strike authorization vote by members.
The exchange came as Hollywood waited nervously to see whether the dispute would halt TV and film production.
Last week, SAG accused the studios of offering a contract worth less than one already approved by leaders of the smaller American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
SAG made the claim amid demands in Hollywood that it accept the same deal. SAG did not provide details on the differences between the offers.
Actors had mixed views of the talks, but most said a deal was preferable to a walkout.
"I hope that cool heads prevail and that people get a chance to work," Ron Perlman told Associated Press Television at the weekend premiere of "Hellboy II: The Golden Army."
"I'm hoping and praying that they find some middle ground."