1/24/2008

Lionsgate, Marvel Studios Sign Interim Deals

The following two WGA press releases were sent to media today to announce that Lionsgate and Marvel Studios have both signed interim agreements with the Writers Guild.

LIONSGATE SIGNS INTERIM AGREEMENT WITH WRITERS GUILD

LOS ANGELES – Leading independent filmed entertainment studio Lionsgate is the latest company to sign an interim agreement with the Writers Guild of America. The company is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of motion pictures, television programming, home entertainment, family entertainment and video-on-demand content.

The agreement is similar to the deals the WGA has recently announced with United Artists, The Weinstein Company, Worldwide Pants, Spyglass Entertainment, MRC, Jackson Bites, Mandate Films, and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

“We are pleased Lionsgate has joined the growing number of companies that have signed interim agreements with the Writers Guild,” said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, in a joint statement. “Lionsgate is considered a leader in the industry, and its signing an interim agreement again confirms that it is possible for both writers to be compensated fairly and respectfully for their work and for companies to operate profitably.”

Upcoming Lionsgate films include Rambo, The Eye, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Forbidden Kingdom, My Best Friend's Girl, Punisher 2, Saw 5, and The Spirit. Upcoming television series include Weeds (Showtime, fourth season), Mad Men (AMC, second season), and Fear Itself (NBC, debut season).

WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA AND MARVEL STUDIOS ANNOUNCE INTERIM AGREEMENT

LOS ANGELES – Marvel Studios, a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, Inc., and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced today that they have reached an interim comprehensive agreement that will put writers immediately back to work on the Marvel Studios development slate. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We’re very excited about our summer releases, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, and look forward to resuming work with writers on our future projects including Captain America, Thor, Ant-Man, and The Avengers,” said Marvel Studios Chairman David Maisel.

“Marvel Studios’ signing of an interim agreement with the Writers Guild is more good news for our membership,” said WGAE President Michael Winship and WGAW President Patric M. Verrone. “Marvel is committed to fairly compensating their writers and now they can move forward with their planned production schedule.”

Marvel Studios recently launched its independent live-action film studio to develop, produce, and fully finance Marvel movies, which will include two of this summer’s most anticipated releases – Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Directed by Jon Favreau, Iron Man will be released by Paramount Pictures on May 2, 2008, and stars Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow. The Incredible Hulk, which will be released by Universal Pictures on June 13, 2008, is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, and William Hurt. In cooperation with other studios, Marvel previously produced a long succession of hits, including the Spider-Man, X-Men, and Fantastic Four franchises, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil.

The WGA recently entered into interim agreements with The Weinstein Company, United Artists, Lionsgate, Worldwide Pants, Spyglass Entertainment, MRC, Jackson Bites, Mandate Films, and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment.

20 comments:

BJ said...

Don't the WGA's bylaws mandate that interim deals be voted on by the entire membership?

Oh, wait, I forgot -- these aren't really interim deals, they're waivers.

Never mind.

BeeKay said...

Friends,

I am a good and loyal member of my union and a strong supporter of this strike, but could somebody please, please explain how making a deal with Lionsgate is, in any way helpful to our cause? Putting an NBC or Showtime series back into production, and resuming the network’s income-flow, helps us in exactly what way? If these companies abide by our terms in perpetuity, that’s certainly one thing, but any interim agreement will be usurped by any final settlement so what, precisely, are we accomplishing? (A short-term victory for the limited duration of the strike?)

Again, if Ford and General Motors were both being struck and we made a deal with Ford, I could readily understand how that would pressure GM. But this strategy seems tantamount to picketing GM and then making an interim agreement with Buick. I’m confused.

Again, not a complaint or a run-down, just a loyal and sincere guild supporter in need of honest clarification about this strategy. Could somebody explain this to me, please?

troll-proof said...

This is huge. Lion's Gate is in both the feature business and the TV business. Marvel is transforming itself into a self-financed stand-alone studio, which will compete directly with the majors. This adds substantial validity to the terms of the WGA interim agreement. The deal is good for writers and good for production companies. Our interim agreement is the deal we should hold out for with the AMPTP. Stand strong, fellow writers, we are worth it!

Harold said...

I suppose that it is good news that more "interim agreements" unapproved by the membership have been made, but this was also done 20 years ago (WITH membership approval) and we know the outcome of that strike.

One of the indications that WGA members should be supportive of these agreements is the annoyance reported by AMPTP members, but I have trouble measuring any real progress toward ending the strike successfully by these announcements. AMPTP isn't meeting with WGA because of "interim agreements." AMPTP is meeting with WGA because it has its DGA deal completed - as it always intended.

This strike is having some real long-term impacts. The pilot season may have changed significantly. When 127 writers with pilots wrote a sappy letter to 200 studio and network TV development executives, everyone knew their real concern - a change to how pilot season is conducted. Their fear may have been realized. There may significantly fewer writing opportunities and BTL work in regards to pilot season going forward. This strike has provided the networks an opportunity to implement those changes.

It bothers me that AMPTP continues to execute its strike gameplan in a measurable manner, and the only thing that WGA has done so far is give up THREE proposals and make "interim agreements" that revert to whatever AMPTP finally agrees on.

After Verrone et al surrendered the DVD proposal as a "strategic" move, Verrone stated that he was surprised by the "significant disappointment and even anger from many of our members." That's a staggering state of stupidity.

Ron Moore writes that now is a time to give the NegCom "trust." Last time, that trust resulted in DVDs becoming DOA, a brand new ultimatum from AMPTP, dumping of deals, and significantly fewer writing opportunities for pilot season going forward.

Why do I mention all of this negative crap?

Because whatever deal is signed has to be worth all of this shit. There has to be a positive balance against all of this negative shit. Taking a shitty deal on top of all of this other shit is unacceptable.

WGA members need to support this strike and the NegCom despite some incredibly idiotic mistakes. The strike needs to hold out for a good deal despite AMPTP bastardly behavior.

This strike has to count. If it doesn't, I don't think 90% support will be out there for another one in three years - or 30.

mheister said...

Beekay -

For one, it gives WGA negotiators more ammo for their argument that their proposals are indeed quite reasonable.

It also tells the AMPTP that while the WGA remains united, AMPTP members are being plucked from their fold like grapes.

Tasty.

mheister said...

Harold -

We (I'm SAG, and our turn is in a few months) need to remain behind our negotiation team until they emerge with an agreement, then consider that agreement carefully before voting to approve or reject it.

Patience. The membership will have its say.

Ruthie said...

Big deal. Like all the other early signers, they have "favored nations," right? So what if they give us everything we ask for? Even if they agreed to pay fifty percent on new media, it's only going to drop to zero-zero-zero-point-three-five along with everyone else's rate -- and retroactively at that! -- as soon as we ratify the shitty DGA deal.

Companies that sign "interim" deals should be held to the FULL TERMS of the interim deal for the entire three years of the contract.

Oh, and I'm curious: what do the Marvel and Lionsgate contracts say regarding reality and animation?

Captain Obvious said...

Unfortunately it's fairly difficult to gain an audience with most of the studios we've made deals with.

These agreements are just reactivating their pre-existing pipelines.

Bryant Durrell said...

It's true that interim agreements will be overridden by the final agreement. It's also true that every interim agreement puts pressure on the big guys; yes, the effect of any single agreement is small, but the weight builds.

Alex Epstein said...

What's good about the deal? It's divide and conquer. It puts pressure on the studios that haven't signed to get with the program.

Each deal the WGA signs puts some WGA members back to work -- good for us, good for the strike fund -- and makes it that much harder for the major studios to stay shut down while the other kids are getting to go out and play.

Flip the situation and it's easy to see why it's good. If the studios could have got 5% of the writers to sign their lousy deal, we'd be losing the strike.

VDOVault said...

Okay so does this mean that the writers rooms for 'Mad Men', 'Weeds' and 'Fear Itself' can finally open and get back down to business?

If so I am so extremely pleased...especially as 'Mad Men' is one of my 3 'can't miss' shows...I still make an appointment to watch it on the first night it airs on AMC.

Hopefully their new deal covers not only downloads and streams (which I can recommend to other scripted TV show fans who are going without 'new' things to watch) but will also include a respectable DVD residual rate for the first season set of discs (which I can't wait to buy).

It feels to me like the ice is finally starting to melt...hooray!

stuiec said...

beekay: "Could somebody explain this to me, please?"

It's a strategy to break the cartel. It isn't about validating the terms of the interim agreement itself -- paradoxically, it's the opposite.

You get the smaller players to sign the interim agreement with the "most favored nations" clause by telling them, "There's no downside -- you'll get whatever terms we agree to with the AMPTP." So they sign, get back into production, and let the other companies bear the financial burden of the strike.

Then other companies look at the ones that broke from the cartel and say, "Well, if they're doing it, we're fools not to." So they sign, too, secure that they'll get the better deal later.

The theory is that, as fewer and fewer companies remain "on strike against the WGA," their weight and power on their side of the bargaining table will dwindle. Eventually, if the strategy plays out, the remaining companies won't have the collective power to deny the WGA what it's demanding -- and the interim agreements will be the model for the final MBA.

It's reminiscent of an old Cold War joke. The Soviet Foreign Minister asks the Premier, "Comrade, why don't we just let the Jews emigrate? They're just a few people." Brezhnav says, "Comrade Kosygin, if we let the Jews go, then the Kazhaks will want to go. If we let the Kazhaks go, the Ukrainians will want to go. Soon, there won't be anyone left in the Soviet Union but you and me!" Kosygin winks and says, "Comrade Brezhnev, don't be so sure about me!"

hotline said...

beekay -

Think of the AMPTP like an iceberg melting. Smaller pieces of ice fall off before the giant chunks break off.

These smaller companies can resume work so they're ahead of the bigger companies - especially with films. I am a TV person, but I don't care. If any of my fellow writers have an opportunity to go back to work and make money for themselves and BTLs - I'm happy for all of them. I also have zero doubt that it'll create tension and pressure in these larger chucks so maybe they'll want to break off the iceberg and do the same.

One more thing... Every writer out there should take note of which companies are signing this deal. So in the future when you have an opportunity to choose between Lionsgate or Marvel and let's say Paramount with your script's bidding war - don't forget who to be loyal to.

I know who I want to work with.

Josh said...

beekay,

its huge because LG has distribution

just a thought said...

Isn't Marvel owned by Time Warner

Stephen said...

justathought wrote: Isn't Marvel owned by Time Warner?

Nope. You're thinking of DC, the other big superhero comic book publisher.

Marvel is a publicly-traded company which is actually not owned by a larger media conglomerate.

They're actively involved in developing and producing film and TV projects based on the properties they own, like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

Bryant Durrell said...

just a thought -- Marvel is not owned by Time-Warner. DC Comics is, but Marvel is an independent entity.

just a thought said...

Thank you for the info

lauraholl said...

these deals are pointless now. expecially as major points have been taken off the table with the AMPTP. is it any wonder these companises are willing to make these deals, knowing that the AMPTP will inevitbaly make a deal that wont cost them anywhere near as much, yet they come off looking like angels and smelling like roses. unless those deals are permanent(or for contract length anyways), they have no power in this negotiation. holding up lionsgate in the negotiations and saying "well they gave us what we wanted" has no weight when what comes next is "but its no permanent deal, so what we are asking for is not really what we think we'll get in the long run, coz whatever we sign with you becomes their new deal"

had these deals been contract length, how many more people would want to work with lionsgate over NBC if they have a choice? now THAT's pressure to meet the same conidtions.

Lionsgate is prolly laughing all the way to the bank. they get writers back early. probably wont have to meet a single one of the terms they signed on in their interim waiver deal, because by the time any one of them needs to be met, the new much lower deal with the AMPTP will be in place.

what a waste of time and energy.

stuiec said...

lauraholl: that's not what the interim agreements are about.

Think of the WGA and the AMPTP as being engaged in a tug-o'-war. Every interim agreement means a company letting go of the rope and relying on the remaining companies to do all of the tugging. If a critical mass of companies drop off, then the ones staying behind say, "What the hell are we doing all the work for," and they drop off as well -- for fear that the early quitters are getting all of the benefits.

Eventually, only the biggest hulks remain pulling on the company side -- and if one or two of them lets go, then the WGA tugs the whole lot into the mud. At that point it will be too late for a Lionsgate or Marvel or UA to say, "But we thought the big guys were going to keep us from having to honor the terms of our interim agreements!"

That is the theory. To make it work in practice, the WGA membership has to remain calm and committed, and let the strategy play out.