SAG WON'T WALK OUT WITH WRITERS

The Screen Actors Guild notified members Tuesday that if the Writers Guild of America calls a strike against movie and TV producers, the actors under the "No Strike" clause in their collective-bargaining agreements must continue to go to work and audition for work for struck producers. However, the SAG notice added, actors are encouraged "on your own time" to walk WGA picket lines "to show your support of their effort." Meanwhile, talks between the WGA and the producers recessed Tuesday so that the producers could caucus. For their part, the WGA's East and West branches posted a terse statement on their website saying, "We have no intention of discussing the producers' rollback proposals. Not now, not ever." Talks are scheduled to resume on Thursday. Reporting on the negotiations, today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Times observed, "Almost everyone in town is gripped by a sense of foreboding." It quoted one unnamed literary agent as saying. "No one knows how this is going to work. Studios are trying to figure out how to do without writers, and everyone out there who writes for a living is trying to figure out how to keep making a living."

SPIELBERG TO RETURN TO UNIVERSAL?

Calling it "a virtual public announcement that a reunion between" Universal and DreamWorks is being negotiated, L.A. Weekly columnist and blogger Nikki Finke reported late Tuesday that Universal's Jeff Zucker and Ron Meyer lunched in the studio commissary earlier in the day with DreamWorks execs Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider -- "and everybody was all smiles." Speculation that Spielberg and partner David Geffen would leave Paramount when their contracts expire next year was intensified by recent remarks by Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman that Spielberg's exit would be "completely immaterial" to Viacom's bottom line.

MOVIE REVIEWS: LIONS FOR LAMBS

Early trade reviews of Lions for Lambs, starring Robert Redford and Tom Cruise, which premiered Monday at the London Film Festival, suggest that it is likely to face the same difficulties attracting ticket buyers as other recent films targeting the war in Iraq. Ray Bennett writes today (Wednesday) in the Hollywood Reporter: "Boxoffice response to films dealing with the U.S. government's strategies in the Middle East so far suggests that the public is not eager to grapple with the topic onscreen. Redford's film will appeal to those who feel that today's military sacrifices are being made on false premises, but its responsible tone could draw a more widely appreciative audience." In Daily Variety, Derek Elley comments that the screenwriter, Matthew Michael Carnahan, "uses a lot of words to say nothing new" and that the movie amounts to "the movie equivalent of an Off Broadway play." Noting that the film is the first for United Artists since Cruise began running the studio, Elley concludes that Lions "doesn't look likely to roar its way to significant [box-office] gains."

MALL OWNERS TRY TO HALT MOVIE GALLERY SHUT-DOWN

A group of 35 mall owners are attempting to block bankrupt Movie Gallery from shutting down more than 500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores, Home Media magazine reported Tuesday. In a motion filed in bankruptcy court in Virginia the landlords protested that the court had earlier given Gallery the right to "write themselves a free pass to conduct [closures] however they see fit."

Brian B.