LOS ANGELES Unable for weeks to agree on terms for a new contract, Hollywood studios and the Screen Actors Guild have now found themselves unable to agree on whether negotiations will continue.
The guild rejected the latest offer Thursday, turning down a deal producers insisted was their last.
"We made it clear our final is our final and that we're not interested in further counterproposals," said Jesse Hiestand, a spokesman for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
SAG continued to claim it was willing to negotiate and presented a counterproposal despite producers' seemingly firm stance.
Doug Allen, SAG's executive director and chief negotiator, said the guild made a "comprehensive counterproposal that adopted some of their proposals and offered alternatives on others."
SAG committee members are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the situation and said they will contact producers in the afternoon.
The two sides met privately for more than five hours Thursday before the AMPTP released a statement saying the guild was "unreasonably" seeking more than other unions. The session came as actors continue to work under a contract that expired last month.
The studios made their final offer last week, saying it provided $250 million in additional compensation over three years. The studios said they will not make any pay increases retroactive to July 1 if the deal is not ratified by Aug. 15.
Allen called the $250 million estimate "highly inflated," claiming that proposed raises to actors' minimum wages would not benefit the higher-paid actors.
SAG, the largest and most powerful actors union, represents 120,000 actors in movies, TV and other media.
It is seeking greater compensation for DVDs, something neither writers, directors nor a smaller actors union could secure in negotiations. SAG also wants more say for actors when they are asked to endorse products in scripted shows.
AMPTP said in the statement that the guild should consider the consequences of not accepting the latest offer.
"The last thing we need is a long, hot summer of labor strife that puts even more pressure on a badly struggling economy and deprives audiences of the entertainment they clearly desire in such difficult times," the statement said.
On Tuesday, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, a smaller union with 70,000 members, approved a three-year deal for a handful of prime-time TV shows, including "Rules of Engagement" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
SAG, however, represents the vast majority of actors who work in prime-time TV shows and movies. Any work stoppage by its members could throw the industry into turmoil.
The guild and studios have said they want to avoid a repeat of the 100-day strike by the Writers Guild of America that ended in February. That walkout stalled production on dozens of TV shows and is estimated to have cost the Los Angeles area economy more than $2 billion.
The studios' position that it had made its final offer left open the possibility that it could declare that talks have reached an impasse. If confirmed by the National Labor Relations Board, the declaration would let studios impose certain clauses of their offer on the guild.
However, most of the proposed contract changes favor the guild, making it unclear if an impasse would benefit the studios.
SAG began formal talks with the producers' alliance April 15, but those talks were temporarily suspended May 6 without a deal. The producers then began bargaining with AFTRA. A deal was announced May 28 and approved by AFTRA members.
The studios said the possibility of a SAG strike sent some film producers rushing to finish shooting or to delay projects for fear they would be shut down before filming was complete.
But even after the contract expired, on-location movie shoots were on the rise in Los Angeles, according to permitting group FilmL.A. Inc.
There were 101 shooting days on location in Los Angeles between July 2 and July 8, up from 97 days a year ago, it said, making the studios' claim that labor uncertainty had caused a de facto strike in Hollywood somewhat dubious.