Hollywood writers continue talks up to strike deadline

— Talks between producers and representatives of Hollywood's television and movie writers union continued well into the night Tuesday, with no settlement or stalemate to announce.

The extended negotiations were seen as cause for optimism by leaders of a city bracing for a summer of economically devastating strikes.

Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers remained closeted as the 2:01 a.m. CDT deadline to reach an agreement. The two parties have maintained a news blackout throughout the talks, issuing only terse statements announcing when discussions ended and resumed each day.

Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who last month ordered a study of the economic impact a strike by writers and actors would have on the city, said key negotiators had told him that there were reasons for optimism.

"I am optimistic that a strike will be averted," Riordan said during a City Hall news conference Tuesday. "We all know that time is running out. Once again, I call on the producers and writers to work together in the spirit of compromise and save tens of thousands of Los Angeles jobs from the cutting room floor."

The mayor's report estimated that a joint walkout by the writers guild and the Screen Actors Guild could cost the city as many as 81,900 jobs and $4.4 billion in lost revenue in the third quarter alone.

When lost taxes and other considerations are factored in, the overall cost of the two strikes could come to as much as $6.9 billion.

Even if the writers and producers can agree on a contract, the studios have more worries ahead.

The combined Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are approaching a July 1 deadline on their contracts with producers. In January, the Directors Guild of America's contract is up.

If the talks between writers and producers do collapse, a strike-authorization vote would have to be taken by guild membership. The shows most adversely affected by an early walkout would be late-night television talk shows and soap operas.


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