Writers Walkout Expected to Start Monday

Hollywood Could Be Hit by First Strike in Two Decades

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- After deciding unanimously last night to recommend a strike to their elected leaders today, the Writers Guild of America's board will convene in less than an hour to enter the launch codes for the nuclear option: the first writers strike in nearly 20 years.

The fateful date, WGA leaders have indicated, will be Monday, failing a weekend of digital detente between scribes and the film studios and TV networks that make up the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

A small ember of hope still burns that such a rapprochement might still be possible. The AMPTP's chief negotiator, Nick Counter, released a statement that was equal parts snark and olive branch. "We are not surprised" by the writers' decision to recommend a strike, Mr. Counter said, but he added, "We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend."

'Two major weapons'
Jonathan Handel, a former associate counsel to the WGA in 1994 and 1995 and now an entertainment lawyer at Troy & Gould, said he would be surprised if the guild rushed to strike.

"The WGA has two major weapons," Mr. Handel said, "the threat of a strike, and an actual strike. Once you strike, one of your chief advantages goes away."

The last WGA strike, a five-month work stoppage in 1988, failed to produce any major gains for the writers and cost the industry an estimated $500 million in lost revenue and wages.

Despite that, no new talks had been scheduled as of 9 a.m. today, and it was unclear whether any back-channel communications were occurring between senior WGA leaders and the moguls who would be on the receiving end of a strike.
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