Fearless Predictions

January 01, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

1. The WGA strike will not be settled but the writers will go back to work. With both sides deeply entrenched, the likelihood of a settlement is slim – at least any time in the near future. However, the repercussions of a prolonged strike could elevate from being economically damaging to economically catastrophic (especially if the directors and actors join the writers, as could happen as the DGA and SAG CBAs run out) - another lost TV season, a shattered 2009 movie release schedule, farming out of duties overseas, scab hirings, etc. So it's in everyone's interest for the writers to return to work even without a CBA. The most likely situation is a temporary agreement while "good faith" negotiations continue. Ultimately, the language in the writers' contract will look a lot like what ends up in the directors' and actors' contract. It will be a three-for-one bargain, but the difficulty will be getting that first one.

2. The High Def DVD format war will not end in 2008. That doesn't mean we'll be in the same situation one year down the line. We may be a lot closer to a resolution, but anyone who thinks either Toshiba/Microsoft or Sony is going to throw in the towel during the next 12 months hasn't been studying the situation or paying attention to how stubborn the sides are. More on this in its own column next Monday.

3. There will only be one movie in 2008 that crosses the $300 million (domestic) mark. 2007 had four (almost five), but I only see one film on the 2008 roster with that kind of box office power: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Other contenders: Speed Racer, Prince Caspian, Sex and the City, Hulk 2, Get Smart, Wall-E, The Dark Knight, X-Files 2, Madagascar 2, Bond 22, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Star Trek. Many of those will reach $200 million, but $300 million? Consider these tidbits... The last few Harry Potters have all made less than $300 million. The first Narnia movie missed $300 million and sequels usually don't do as well as their predecessors. No Bond has made as much as $200 million. Madagascar made less than $200 million. The last Pixar film to make more than $300 million was Finding Nemo. Batman Begins crested $200 million but not by much - I don't see even the addition of a non-Nicholson Joker adding another $100 million. Hulk 2 is encumbered by the "bad taste" it left in many fans' mouths. Sex in the City and X-Files are both niche pictures. They will do well, but will not be explosive. Use The Simpsons Movie as a template. Get Smart will be one of the year's better comedies, but comedies rarely come close to $300 million. The wild card is Speed Racer. It could be a major bomb or it could be 2008's Big Unexpected Thing. We'll see...

4. The 2008 Box Office will be down compared to 2007. Without the heavy hitters out there, it's going to be tough for 2008 to keep up. Going into 2007, people were excited about the "three threes": Pirates 3, Shrek 3, Spider-Man 3. All made $300M. (The fourth member of the club was Transformers, which kind of came out of nowhere. It was predicted to do well, but not that well.) There's not the same level of excitement about any 2008 releases except perhaps the Indiana Jones movie. Time will tell whether there's a Transformers out there in 2008.

5. The new Star Trek will win a legion of supporters from the "non-fan sector" but will alienate many die-hards. Such is the risk when trying to mainstream an old, creaking warhorse. This is a last gasp chance for the Star Trek franchise. If this movie goes down like the Titanic, life will continue only in fan-made Internet episodes. What J.J. Abrams wants to do is satisfy long-time fans happy while bringing in millions of new viewers via action, stunt casting, and first-rate special effects. The question is whether, by doing this, he will isolate the fan base that has kept this series running for 45 years. Does it even matter? And at this point, is the Star Trek name an asset or a detriment? By the way, I don't think the December 25 release date is going to stick. Star Trek will either move up to the weekend before Christmas (December 19) or move out to the Summer of 2009 if Hollywood suffers a shut-down. If something needs to be shifted to May 2009, this film is a perfect candidate. (But that won't be an issue if Prediction #1 is accurate.)