RKO, WGA ink interim pact

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A day after signing interim agreements with Lionsgate and Marvel Studios, the WGA inked a pact with RKO Pictures, allowing the company to push forward with financing deals and projects that were put on hold since the strike started 85 days ago

RKO chief executive Ted Hartley said Friday that he started negotiating with the WGA after Harvey Weinstein suggested that the sides talk. The Weinstein Co. this month signed an interim work agreement that allowed the indie film company to resume developing its latest slate of productions.

"He suggested to them and to us that it would be good for both of us, and it just developed from there," Hartley said.

RKO joins a growing list of production and indie film companies that have entered into interim agreements with the guild, whose members have been on strike since Nov. 5.

Joining Lionsgate, Marvel, the Weinstein Co. and RKO in such deals are United Artists, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Spyglass Entertainment, MRC, Jackson Bites, Mandate Films and Worldwide Pants.

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has said such deals are "one-off agreements" that are "meaningless because the companies signing them know they will not have to abide by their terms for very long, since they'll be superseded by whatever final industrywide accords are reached."

But Hartley said his company's deal puts back into production his slate of original films and remakes of RKO classics.

"Because we have a writers deal done now, we can begin to move ahead with a plan," he said. "We have the wheels screwed on."

RKO plans this week to announce its production schedule, which will include several film projects, bringing in a whole new kind of financing as well as producing and distributing a number of new versions of classic RKO films from its 1,300-title library.

"We would have had this out before Thanksgiving, but we were just totally stopped and not allowed to talk to our writers and writer-directors," Hartley said.

WGA East president Michael Winship and WGA West president Patric Verrone said Friday: "In the past, RKO gave the world such classics as 'King Kong,' 'Citizen Kane' and 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Now it looks to the future, signing an interim agreement that recognizes fair and respectful compensation for writers on the Internet and in new media."

Details of the agreement were not disclosed, but Hartley said his WGA deal is slightly different than the others because of the size of RKO's library, though "by and large, just reading through it, it's pretty much the same as the Weinsteins and others."

Meanwhile, representatives of the WGA and Hollywood studios met for a fourth consecutive day of informal talks Friday. Another session is expected, though timing of the next get-together is unclear. The parties are hoping to find enough areas of mutual agreement to get formal netotiations between the WGA and the studio reps resumed. Formal talks broke down Dec. 7.

Carl DiOrio contributed to this report.
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