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Are the Hollywood Natives Getting Restless?

28 Sep, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

A strange thing happened at a DVD launch event I attended recently. We were all there to celebrate the DVD launch – except, apparently, the cast and crew at the event.

The group seemed happy to discuss the film and reminisce about making it, but loathe to discuss DVD. At the time I had no way of knowing, although the talent most likely did, that the Directors Guild of America (DGA) had just agreed to new contract terms that did not increase directors' roughly 2 percent share of DVD profits.

There was only one director in the bunch, but other unions have tiddlywinked their negotiations because the DGA was perceived as the muscle on the issue. The Writers Guild is working without a contract after a negotiating stalemate – partly over DVD – and the Screen Actors Guild is up next. The DGA's results are widely seen as a bellwether of what the other unions can expect.

So while the guilds seem to be making gains in health benefits, DVD residuals are, so far, unchanged.

If the DGA board and membership approve their deal, it will mean that any larger share of DVD profits will have to be negotiated in individual contracts. Not bad for Dave Chappelle, who reportedly gets 50 percent of DVD profits from his shows past and future in exchange for staying with Comedy Central. It may be great news for Peter Jackson, who can have pretty much anything he wants after The Lord of the Rings, or The Governator, the latter of whom reportedly got a $75,000 payment for his commentary on Terminator 3.

But for less successful films, we may be in for more fringe commentaries. I have joked with colleagues about the commentary from the key grip's niece, who happened to visit the set one day during shooting. OK, it's not that bad – yet – but you get the idea.

Even for big box office movies, studios may find it more economical to include commentary from reviewers who panned a flick, like the three we are expecting on the 10-disc Matrix set, than to have to give the title's talent anything more.

Wouldn't it be ironic if, just as the studios all agree on a next-gen disc format, they found themselves with nobody to fill up that extra storage space?

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