SAG Strike Could Shut Down Academy Awards and Oscars Night
February 20, 2009
Oscars in Trouble: Actor’s Negotiations Break Down, ABC Offering Discount Ad Rates
By Jeffrey Jolson
HOLLYWOOD, CA (RushPRnews/Hollywood Today) 2/20/09
— The Screen Actors Guild and studio chiefs broke off negotiations last night, just days before the Oscars. The producers said it was ‘the last and final offer,” mostly over Internet pay for the thespians and length of time on the new contract with the 120,000 actors.
Producers insisted they could withdraw the deal within 60 days, though they were only months away in length of contract, 27 months or 36 months.
“The terms in the offer are the best we can offer or will offer in light of the other five major labor industry deals negotiated over the past year and the extraordinary economic crisis gripping the world economy,” the AMPTP said.
SAG had no immediate response but the key issue separating the two sides - with the companies’ demanding a three-year deal from the date of ratification, rather three years from the expiration date of the last contract — turned out to be insurmountable.
The studios insisted that they need the full three years to provide stability amid a volatile outlook for the industry. But such a term would push SAG’s expiration to at least March 2012 and de-couple the end of the SAG contract far away from the WGA’s in May 2011 and the DGA’s and AFTRA’s in June 2011 - thus diminishing SAG’s bargaining clout since there would be much smaller chance of SAG being on strike at the same time as another Hollywood union, according to Variety.
The AMPTP also said it would be willing to start negotiations on the successor contract no later than November, 2010, which would allow SAG to get back into synch with the other unions in 2014 - as long as SAG and AFTRA ratified the successor agreements by June 30, 2011.
The congloms made the “last, best and final offer” eight months after issuing a “final” offer to SAG on June 30 as the guild’s feature-primetime contract expired.
The three days of talks represented only the second round of talks for SAG and the AMPTP since last July. Two days of talks in November, supervised by a federal mediator, also cratered when SAG demanded increases in DVD residuals, product placement protections and retroactivity.
The move was highly unexpected as moderates controlled the SAG board since “strike” pros had been ousted and an agreement was expected.
As if that wasn’t trouble enough during Oscar week, ABC has reduced the ad rates on the Oscarcast from $1.7 million per 30 second spot to as little as $1.4 million - a 16 percent decline from last year.
“Slumdog Millionaire” is the odds-on favorite, having swept the guild and critics awards, but perhaps the alphabet net is concerned about the draw of the rags to riches story from Mumbai as an attention-keeper, as well as the general economy.
“It’s more than just the economy,” said Peter Sealey, a marketing professor at the Peter Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University and a former movie industry executive, told the LA Times.
“The academy has a problem here. The show is way too long, and the films this year are not spectacular,” he said. “If this year’s ratings are down, it could be the tipping point and they will have to make changes.”
This year’s rating will be down. The $15 million budget “Slumdog” is no “Titanic” or “Lord of the Rings.” There will be gowns galore, but the only real fight is best male actor, between leaders Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke’s comeback in “The Wrestler” and Dav Patel from “Slumlord.”
About the author:
Jeffrey Jolson is Hollywood Today founding editor-in-chief and a RushPRnews partner and contributor since 2006. Jeffrey, of the Al Jolson family, also founded HollywoodReporter.com and Grammy.com. Hollywood Today reporters have written for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Forbes, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, AP, E!, Popular Science and Popular Mechanics.
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