STRIKE OR NO STRIKE?

The strike deadline of midnight came and went last night, with Hollywood screenwriters and movie and TV studios still deadlocked over even which issues should be discussed. No further discussions were planned for today (Thursday), but neither was there an announcement of strike plans. That could come as early as tonight following a meeting of the Writers Guild of America membership at the Los Angeles Convention Center. "If you have an office on a studio lot, you may want to box up your personal items when you leave work on Thursday," the WGA's leadership advised members. However, entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel told the Los Angeles Times, "The guild would look completely unreasonable if it struck immediately, particularly since they've introduced a federal mediator." Producers have maintained that the guild's demand for a greater share of DVD and Internet revenue is a non-starter given tight profit margins on DVDs and tiny sales of online product. The WGA replied, "Every issue that matters to writers ... has been ignored. This is completely unacceptable."

IATSE WARNS MEMBERS THEY COULD LOSE JOBS FOR SUPPORTING STRIKE

Two days after a Hollywood Teamsters official appeared to encourage members of the union as "individuals" not to cross writers' picket lines "whether it is sanctioned or not," the technicians' union IATSE notified its members that they could lose their jobs if they followed suit. "The IATSE contracts contain provisions that require us to continue to honor our contracts," the message said. "These 'no strike' provisions require the IATSE to notify our members of their obligation to honor these contracts and continue working. Any individual member who chooses to honor any picket line is subject to permanent replacement."

NEW YORK MAGAZINE VS. UNIVERSAL

New York magazine is miffed that Universal Studios is describing An American Gangster as an "original" rather than an "adapted" screenplay. While the film is said to have been based on a New York magazine article titled "The Return of Superfly," by Mark Jacobson, sole writing credit is given to Steve Zallian, who wrote the screenplay. In a statement to L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke, Universal responded that the writing credit determination was made by the Writers Guild of America and that Universal was simply "following their direction." The studio also noted that while the magazine article "was used as research material," many sequences and characters in the movie did not appear in the article, including the character of Richie Roberts, played by co-star Russell Crowe.

GANGSTER SET TO SWAT BEE

An American Gangster is expected to float like a butterfly to the top of the box office this weekend without much worry that Jerry Seinfeld's animated film will sting like a bee, industry analysts are predicting. Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times quoted box office trackers and various industry sources as predicting that the gangster biography will "dominate" ticket sales. "The word around town is the film is tracking through the roof with urban audiences ... and urban audiences hold tremendous clout at the box office." Paul Dergarabedian, president of the movie tracking firm Media by Numbers told the Times." The Times, citing "several movie industry sources" said that the film should probably take in $40 million over the weekend. Its only major competion is Seinfeld's family-oriented Bee Movie.

NEW X-FILES MOVIE TO BE RELEASED IN JULY

Six years after the X-Filesaired its final episode and ten years after a movie version of the show was released, Fox has scheduled a second theatrical sequel to be released on July 25, 2008. The studio said Wednesday that the movie will reunite David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but it provided no further details about it, except that shooting is expected to begin in February in Vancouver, where most of the original TV series was filmed.

TRANSFORMERS STAYS AT NO. 1 ON DVD CHARTS

Holding off a challenge from the DVD debut of Disney's Meet the Robinsons, Paramount/DreamWorks' Transformers remained at the top of the DVD lists in both sales and rentals for the second consecutive week last week, according to Home Media magazine. On the rental chart, Transformers dropped just 14 percent as it added $8.6 million to its DVD gross.

CRUISE: U.A. IS LIKE GOING TO FILM SCHOOL

Running United Artists is "kind of like film school," Tom Cruise has told Entertainment Tonight. In an interview scheduled to air tonight (Thursday), Cruise added that the studio, which he now heads, seems to him "like a dorm with all hands on deck. We're all very supportive and very honest." Asked about his marriage to Katie Holmes, Cruise sounded far more subdued than he was when he appeared on Oprah Winfrey's show and jumped on a couch at the mention of Holmes's name. The marriage is, he said, "all very good, all very lovely. ... I have a lot respect for her as an artist, as a woman. She's a very strong gracious woman."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.