Studio heads are fuming.
Executives who run the movie biz are members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a group that represents hundreds of movie studios and production companies, and negotiates with entertainment industry trade unions like the Writers Guild of America (WGA).
Interestingly, the WGA has made a deal with Tom Cruise and UA that is similar to the agreement that the union cut with David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants.
By making the first interim deal with the WGA, UA now has a competitive edge over the rest of the Hollywood studios. But this has also created a situation that has weakened the position of the AMPTP and created pressure for other companies to make side deals with the writers’ union, which plays right into the hands of the striking writers.
To that end, the WGA is pursuing similar side deals with the Weinstein Co. (owned by former Miramax Films founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein) and Lionsgate.
The UA deal helps its distributor and majority shareholder MGM because needed product will be supplied to the company.
Because MGM is a member of the AMPTP, in a desire not to break ranks with the group, MGM CEO Harry Sloan had been pleading with Cruise and his sidekick Paula Wagner not to make their own deal with the WGA.
Could it be that there are some second thoughts about making Tom Cruise the head of United Artists film studio?
Meanwhile the awards shows are also feeling weakened and pressured as a result of the writers’ strike.
“What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl?” one movie exec told The New York Times. “They will find a way to make it [the Oscars] happen.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
The Oscar folks started getting nervous when the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced that the actors who were nominated for Golden Globes, in a show of support for striking writers, would not be attending the ceremony.
It could be that the only one walking the red carpet will be Al Gore.
Let’s face it. Awards shows aren’t really about honoring peers. They’re about the public’s insatiable desire to have another opportunity to star gaze. That’s the draw, and that’s what brings in the big bucks.
For the Academy, it translates into around $50 million in Oscar-related revenue. ABC TV brings in scores of millions in ad money each time the golden boy mugs for the camera.
Winning an Oscar can also give a boost to a film, in box-office terms, of 5 percent to 10 percent.
All of the dough means that keeping actors (who also happen to be SAG union members) away from the awards shows is the Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) ace in the hole in getting concessions from execs and ending the strike.
James Hirsen is a media analyst, Trinity Law School professor and teacher of mass media law at Biola University.
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