New Line gets absorbed by Warner Bros.

Inside the big picture show.
Feb. 28 2008 6:26 PM

Farewell, New Line

The dysfunctional studio gets absorbed by Warner Bros.

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The hope is to embarrass the Chinese during what was supposed to be a shining showcase for the country. So far, it doesn't seem to be working. On Tuesday, a spokesman at the Chinese Embassy told the New York Times that the Darfur crisis "is neither an internal issue of China nor is it caused by China." The spokesman added, "It is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair to link the two as one." (link)

Feb. 7, 2008

Pop Quiz: "The Writers' Strike—who won?" asks Hollywoodland's inquiring editor.

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The obvious answer after a bitter and expensive strike is no one. But why settle for the obvious?

No, we must go for nuance, which is just as well. Because at this point the outcome in this fight is eminently spinnable. What's clear is that the deal was pushed through the system so damn fast that many writers weren't sure what they were applauding at the guild meeting on Saturday night at the Shrine. Many thought they had made gains in new media that really aren't there—specifically, that the guild had won a percentage of ad money from shows streamed on the Internet.

That's not exactly true. But maybe it didn't matter to most of the writers at that meeting. For a great many writers, it was time to end the strike. They wanted to declare victory and go back to work.

To be fair, it appears that the writers made some strides in new media. They pushed up the studios' number on payments for downloads of their work. They made a deal to get paid for rentals over the Internet, which Apple is serving up soon. They established that they have some jurisdiction over material created specifically for the Internet. But in this and many other cases, there are all sorts of exceptions and caveats that Hollywoodland will never fully digest. So, while the writers certainly made gains, they can hardly claim a resounding victory.

Consider the supposed victory of wresting a percentage of ad revenue from the studios. That was a big deal in this negotiation. In the first two years (it's a three-year agreement), the deal gives writers a fixed payment—a few hundred bucks—when their work is streamed free over the Internet, such as when you watch an episode of The Office with commercials appended. But many writers felt that a crummy fixed payment was not good enough. So the guild announced that in the third year of the deal—ta-dum—the writer gets 2 percent of revenue from those ads. The Holy Grail!

Except the payment won't be based on the revenue from those ads. The deal makes an assumption: The revenue will be $40,000. So, the writer doesn't get a percentage of the actual gross but a percentage of a fixed amount—which turns out to be a crummy fixed payment of a few hundred bucks. And that wasn't supposed to be good enough.

It seems like sleight of hand to call this a "percentage of gross." But the Writers Guild leaders say that the notion of a percentage has at least been injected into the process and that $40,000 could actually turn out to be more than the studios get from those ads.