Columbia Pictures Throws Writers a Bone

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Show me the money. For years writers have been pounding at the door of movie studios to get what top actors, directors and producers have long been able to command: a cut of the profits. Thursday, a small group of elite screenwriters finally walked away from Columbia Pictures with exactly such a deal, one that TIME senior entertainment reporter William Tynan says it's largely symbolic. "It acknowledges the significant role they play in the success of a movie and it garners a little more respect for them." But, he notes, it's unclear what the arrangement will accomplish in practical terms.

The bigger winner may well be Columbia, which "may now get a few more submissions from high quality writers," Tynan says. That in turn will probably prompt other studios to copycat Columbia and transform these new arrangements into an industry practice. "But the real question," says Tynan, "is whether writers will ever be able to collect on such deals." Studio accounting practices are notorious for their fine print and executives have become renowned for their ability to use "that Hollywood magic" to turn hard profits into paper losses. And so for Tynan the bottom line is this: "I want to see how many years it is before the first writer collects on one of these deals." Sounds like there could be a sequel in the making.