No one is setting down their picket signs just yet, but Variety reports that Cruise and Wagner, who run United Artists, have followed in the footsteps of David Letterman‘s Worldwide Pants production company, brokering an interim deal with the Writers Guild of America. The terms of the deal, though not immediately available, will follow the precedent set by the Worldwide Pants agreement. From the article:
For UA toppers Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner, it’s a major declaration of independence from MGM and underlines that the duo — who have a 35% stake in UA — have the final say in operations. The deal affords the revived studio an opportunity to move forward on projects after initially stumbling out of the gate with “Lions for Lambs.”
Though MGM had no comment about the deal, sources said over the weekend that MGM topper Harry Sloan has opposed the UA interim deal and added that it was highly unlikely that MGM would break ranks from the congloms and sign its agreement before the strike ends.
The deal comes too late to save Oliver Stone‘s Pinkville, which ceased production after the strike started and has already lost star Bruce Willis to another project, and it won’t bring an end to the strike all by itself; United Artists, under the terms of its current financing arrangement, is only set to release “15-18 films over the next five years.” It does open the door, however, for the WGA to continue its “divide and conquer” strategy, proving the Guild’s terms are reasonable enough to function at the indie level — and making UA highly attractive to investors who may not want to wait for the strike to end before making their next film.
According to Variety, Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company “are viewed as the most likely to sign interim deals with the guild”; the Weinsteins have been vetting a WGA proposal for the last couple of weeks, and Lionsgate has a deal on the table as well. From the article:
Such a deal would not be surprising for the Weinsteins, who have been strong supporters of screenwriters. The brothers formed the indie operation two years ago after a dozen years of working for Disney.
For Lionsgate, a pact with the WGA could be more complicated than for UA or TWC since the company also has TV operations. Lionsgate’s been in an expansion mode, taking stakes in Mandate Pictures, Break.com and Roadside Attractions and setting a $400 million, 23-picture theatrical slate financing agreement.