Sources say writers and studios could end their 3-month-old strike in time for Oscars

By Lynn Elber

LOS ANGELES – An agreement to end the three-month-old Hollywood writers strike could be ready in time to avoid disrupting the Oscars but studios and the union are still haggling over the precise language, two people familiar with the talks said.

The Writers Guild of America bargaining committee and board of directors received updates on the status of informal talks with studio executives, the pair said Monday. They were not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

One of the people has said a formal deal is possible by the end of this week.

There was significant progress toward a proposed agreement last week on the toughest issues concerning compensation for projects distributed via the Internet.

While specifics of the negotiations were not disclosed, the proposal agreement is believed to include significant increases in the residuals that writers get for online use of movies and TV shows.

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Last month, studios reached a tentative deal with the Directors Guild of America that included increased residuals for some paid Internet downloads and for ad-supported streaming of programs.

The informal talks are essentially a substitute for the formal negotiations between writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that broke off on Dec. 7. Writers struck on Nov. 5.

The guild and the studios repeatedly have declined comment on the talks, citing a news blackout.

But stars attending an Academy Awards luncheon on Monday seemed optimistic that a deal would be reached in time for the Feb. 24 Oscar show.

“I’m a positive individual. I think the sun will come up tomorrow,” said Viggo Mortensen, a best-actor contender for the crime tale “Eastern Promises.”

The guild has declined to grant striking writers permission to work on the show. While organizers have said they would offer some kind of Oscar show anyway, some stars said they wouldn’t cross picket lines to attend.

The strike also has shut down production on some major TV shows.

Michael Moore, a WGA member nominated for his health-care documentary, “Sicko,” blamed the studios and said they had “shut the town down over a couple pennies.”

Moore said if no agreement is reached, he might start a penny drive to raise the money for writer demands, and suggested people would contribute in order to see their favorite shows return.

Associated Press Movie Writer David Germain contributed to this report.