The Screen Actors Guild national board voted Wednesday to hold a referendum on the contract, which was previously rejected by its executive committee. Ballots will be mailed to the approximately 1,900 SAG members who work in video games.
Actors currently are paid a minimum of $556 per four-hour work session and are often required to voice more than one character per session. The new 3½-year agreement would increase the rate to $759 by 2008, with an immediate 25 percent increase to $695.
Voice actors have worked under a contract with game publishers since 1993. But now that video games generate nearly as much revenue as domestic movie ticket sales, actors say they want a piece of every game sold rather than one-time, upfront fees.
Actors also want extra money when a game sells more than 400,000 units. But game producers have balked at providing residuals, arguing that people don't buy games because of the actors who appear in them.
The SAG board decided not to include a recommendation for or against the contract with ballots. Game producers agreed to extend the current contract until July 31 to accommodate the voting.
Among the actors who have contributed voices to video games are Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Fonda, Ice T and James Woods in "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas;" Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper and Burt Reynolds in "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City"; and Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Christian Bale in "Batman Begins."
By Gary Gentile