Lionsgate Signs Deal with Writers Guild

Film and television studio Lionsgate on Thursday said it reached an interim agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) enabling striking Hollywood writers to work on its projects.

Comic book hero movie company Marvel Studios, a unit of Marvel Entertainment , and the Guild also said they had reached an agreement.

Writers and producers resumed talks this week aimed at ending a nearly three-month strike that has stopped most prime-time television production, and some hope smaller deals put pressure on the big studios.

Writers already have reached interim deals with studios including United Artists, the film production house backed by Tom Cruise, and The Weinstein Co., run by media moguls Harvey Weinstein and brother Bob Weinstein.

Representatives of the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) went back to the table for informal talks this week for the first time since their contract talks collapsed on Dec. 7.

The "informal discussions" are aimed at laying the groundwork for official bargaining to resume.

"The writers' issue seems on its way to being solved and Lionsgate felt it was an important time, particularly in view of our TV series, to have our writer partners get back to work," Lionsgate said in a statement. "We look forward to a broad industry agreement soon," the company said.

Upcoming Lionsgate films include "Rambo", "The Eye" and "Saw 5," while its television series include "Weeds," "Mad Men" and a new show, "Fear Itself."

The AMPTP's recent labor pact with Hollywood directors is expected to be a centerpiece of the informal talks with the WGA.

The directors' deal contains several key provisions to pay union members more for work distributed over the Internet, the chief sticking point in the studios' dispute with writers.

Some 10,500 writers represented by the union went on strike against major film and TV studios on Nov. 5, throwing the television industry into disarray, disrupting various film projects and casting a shadow of Hollywood's awards season.

Formal contract talks between the two sides broke down Dec. 7 and the union began pursuing separate talks with smaller, independent production companies.

In a statement, the WGA said on Thursday that the Lionsgate deal was similar to interim deals reached recently with other independent film and television companies.

"We are pleased Lionsgate has joined the growing number of companies that have signed interim agreements with the Writers Guild," said Patric Verrone, president of WGA West, and Michael Winship, president of the WGA East, in a joint statement.

The WGA reached its first interim deal with Worldwide Pants, the production company owned by late-night TV host David Letterman that allowed his show and another one produced by his firm to return to the air during the strike with writing teams intact.

The WGA said it has also reached deals with Spyglass Entertainment, MRC, Jackson Bites, Mandate Films, and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.