AMPTP BREAKS OFF TALKS WITH SAG

As expected, the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers ended their first round of bargaining talks on Tuesday without an agreement. However, although reports had previously described the negotiations as cordial, the latest ones said that they had ended on a bitter note, fueling the belief that the industry would be staggering into another strike in July. Indeed, SAG President Alan Rosenberg told Daily Variety that the guild may ask its members to authorize a strike as early as next week. In a statement, the AMPTP said that SAG's insistence on "unreasonable demands" had been the reason for its decision to discontinue the talks. SAG, it said, had rejected the "fundamental business and labor principles" that the directors', writers' and producers' guilds had already accepted. For its part SAG maintained that it had "modified" its original demands while the AMPTP had refused to budge from its own position. "Our negotiating team is prepared to work around the clock for as long as it takes to get a fair deal. We want to keep the town working," Rosenberg said in a statement. Meanwhile, negotiators for the AMPTP are expected to open negotiations with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists today (Wednesday). SAG reportedly has 120,000 members; AFTRA, 70,000. About 44,000 belong to both unions.

DISNEY INDICATES STRIKE CUT COSTS, SPURRED PROFITS

The Walt Disney Co. is the latest media conglomerate to report stronger-than-expected quarterly results in the wake of the recent writers' strike. In fact, it said in its SEC filing Tuesday, net profit soared 22 percent from a year ago, coming in at $1.13 billion on revenue of $8.71 billion. Its ABC Studios contributed to a 14 percent growth in income for its media networks unit, largely because of lower production costs during the strike. Profits at its movie studios also shot up as a result of such hits as National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Enchanted, and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds. But it was Disney's theme parks that surprised the most, delivering an amazing 33 percent jump in revenue. Analysts had forecast only a slight bump or even a downturn in attendance given the current recession. They attributed much of the boost to the fact that the Easter holiday arrived in the second quarter this year -- it usually occurs in the third quarter -- and the surge in overseas visitors seeking to take advantage of the depressed American dollar.

INDIES' SUNDANCE CHANNEL IS SOLD

The Sundance Channel, a principal outlet for unsold independent feature films and documentaries, has been acquired by New York-based Cablevision Systems for $496 million in stock and cash. The channel had been a joint venture of NBC Universal, CBS Corp., and Robert Redford. Redford, founder of the Sundance Film Festival and the inspiration for the channel, will remain with it, Cablevision said in a statement. Cablevision owns another channel, IFC, that also specializes in independent films. It was unclear whether the two channels would be combined or continue to operate independently. Analysts suggested that the channels could be operated at relatively little cost. "You are seeing a huge glut of unsold movies on the market," SNL Kagan senior analyst Derek Baine told Bloomberg News. "You can have a good pick of independent films for almost nothing."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.