For the first time since last November, the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will meet again on February 17 and 18 in hopes of reaching a new labor agreement. They will do so in the face of predictions by the Membership First faction of SAG on Tuesday that any agreement between the two sides would be disastrous. "We are not just fighting for TODAY. We are fighting to protect every actors' ability to make a middle class living today AND in the FUTURE," the statement said. Any deal would require endorsement by two thirds of the members. Moreover, an attorney representing SAG President Alan Rosenberg said Tuesday that the action by the union's national board to fire National Executive Director Doug Allen was not legally binding and therefore any deal reached between the two sides should be considered without "force and effect." Meanwhile, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday) that one year after the strike by the Writers Guild of America, writers are finding that movie studios have made "massive reductions in post-strike script fees" and networks have cut back on development of TV shows. At the same time, the networks have learned that many viewers who tuned out during the strike have not returned. "As any network [scheduling] exec will tell you, when viewers break a given habit, even for just a few weeks, it's next to impossible to get them all back," the trade paper observed. (Varietyalso reported that the WGA may bring disciplinary action against Jay Leno for delivering monologues on the Tonightshow during the strike.)


The ability of of Netflix subscribers to watch a virtually unlimited number of movies on demand for a small monthly fee, while already boosting Netflix's revenue beyond expectations, may also threaten traditional providers like Blockbuster and cable pay-TV services, media analyst Diane Mermigas wrote Tuesday. She pointed out: "The 82 percent of U.S. Internet households and 57 percent of all domestic homes equipped for broadband are a click away from all-you-can-stream home movies for $10 a month." She predicted that the Netflix model "will erode cable's subscription business" something, she observed that Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt acknowledged last week when he told investors that younger broadband consumers "will choose not to buy subscription video when they can get the same stuff for free." Mermigas said that for the time being "Netflix must continue mail delivery of the newest film releases because of cost-prohibitive licensing fees, but it has boldly shifted to a new IP-based business model that is destined to become the industry standard."


General Motors, which already is receiving a $13.4-billion federal rescue package, may find another rescuer in Hollywood. Several of the automaker's cars are due to reprise their roles as aliens-in-disguise in the next Transformersmovie due to be released on June 26. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press, Steve Tihanyi, GM's general director of media operations and branded entertainment, said that the movie represents "two hours of a strong brand message." GM studies indicated that consumer opinion of its Chevrolet brand rose 72 percent among those who saw the first Transformersflick. Even more impressive, opinion of a new model Camaro, not due to hit showrooms until next year, improved 97 percent among those who saw it in the movie. According to the Freep,GM is not paying for product placements in the movie, only providing the vehicles -- some of which are experimental models -- and helping in the film's marketing and promotion.


Rip Torn, who plays the cantankerous father of Parker Posey and Demi Moore's sibling characters in Mitchell Lichtenstein's upcoming Happy Tears, told a news conference at the Berlin Film Festival, where the film had its premiere today (Wednesday), that after doing so many roles with so many accents, "I said to myself, 'Hey, buddy, don't you think it's about time you played yourself a little bit?' So that's what I tried to do." (His character is also drifting into senile dementia.) Torn then remarked: "And look what it got me -- I'm here in my old hometown, OK?" He explained: "All of my family spoke German. I grew up in Texas, and I said, Why didn't you teach me when I was a child to speak German?' And they said, 'We didn't want you to have an accent.' And I said, 'So I grew up tahkin' lak the-is, yuh know?'"