The past year saw the threat of digital revolution, the spectacle of corporate intrigue and the buzz of unprecedented scandal — but more often than not, 2006 gave credence to the cliche that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
In other words, try to predict a major story at your own peril.
Many stories — Pellicano-gate, day-and-date DVDs, Bond bombs — either never panned out or simply petered out. The coming year may bring them to fruition, but in the past 12 months such sweeping predictions have been proven off the mark.
So here, in no particular order, is the reality check. These are the 10 stories that just didn’t happen in 2006:
Box office bust. Last year’s box office decline had many surmising that there was a fundamental shift in moviegoing habits. But the box office has risen 3% so far this year, thanks not only to blockbusters such as “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “The Da Vinci Code” but to those much-maligned midrange pics like “The Devil Wears Prada.” Sure, there were the duds, but rather than shun the multiplex, moviegoers just needed a reason to get into theaters. They simply wanted better movies.
The Pellicano scandal is Hollywood’s Watergate. Secret recordings, the FBI, who knew what when. Never in recent memory had industry insiders worried and gossiped so much about an unfolding investigation, and the press fueled it all with detailed profiles and supposed exposes. While the wiretapping investigation of Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano has enveloped some high-profile subjects, among them attorney Terry Christensen and director John McTiernan, investigators have yet to indict any more high-profile names. Many wonder whether this scandal, once declared Hollywood’s greatest, will instead fizzle like Washington’s Valerie Plame affair.
Mel Gibson’s career is dead. After his DUI arrest, anti-Semitic outburst and attempts at redemption, some well-known industry figures declared they wouldn’t work with him — nor should others. Then speculation abounded that Disney would drop “Apocalypto.” Then there was the further consternation over Gibson’s Diane Sawyer interview: Was he really repentant? But “Apocalypto” opened at No. 1 at the box office. And even though biz has dropped off considerably for the pic, it’s hard to blame that on Gibson’s exploits and not other factors like competition and whether holiday audiences really wanted Mayans literally pulling at each other’s heart strings.
Paramount brass is about to fall off a cliff. The year started with the tumult of layoffs and a shaky slate of films, to the point where rumors abounded that Brad Grey and Gail Berman were on their way out. It didn’t help that “Mission: Impossible III” performed somewhat below expectations. Instead, it was their boss, Tom Freston, who got the boot, and for now the chatter has greatly subsided. The potential for “Dreamgirls” to be a hit certainly helps.
Kevin Reilly is on his way out. On the TV side, conventional wisdom said the NBC Entertainment president would be out of a job: While “My Name Is Earl” was doing well, the Peacock was in fourth place and boss Jeff Zucker was looking for someone to blame. But then “Earl” survived a move to Thursday night, “The Office” expanded its audience beyond critics and quizzer “Deal or No Deal” became an unexpected hit, and things started to look brighter for Reilly. NBC had its share of misfires this fall, but it possessed one of the season’s rare breakout hits, “Heroes.”
Internet marketing will drive the box office. “Snakes on a Plane” was to be the wave of the future, proof that the online confederation of Internet movie geeks could not only determine what makes a movie a hit but even guide its content. Even AintItCool.com’s Harry Knowles said, “New Line began listening to media misperception that they had a hit in the bag because the Internet was behind them.” No one is saying the Internet doesn’t play an important role in opening a film these days, but it is not the only thing, and the lackluster biz for “Snakes” proves it has its limits. Or that pre-release overkill can make people sick and tired of something they haven’t even seen yet.
Agencies regroup to take on CAA. You had Endeavor merging with UTA. Or UTA merging with ICM. How about ICM with Endeavor? Given the size and scope of CAA, talk abounded that some consolidation had to happen in the agency business. But it wasn’t what everyone expected. ICM combined with boutique literary firm Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann; the merger, which was a well-kept secret, has bolstered the agency’s TV portfolio. But the shockwaves had only limited reverberations in a sector of the industry that thrives on the slightest blips of movement.
Day and date DVDs rattle exhibition. Disney CEO Robert Iger predicted it would happen: Someone would release a movie in theaters in the same frame as its DVD debut. The first was HDNet’s “Bubble,” and boy, did it … we will spare you the one-liner. Windows have shortened, no doubt about it, but an improvement in the box office seems to have held off such talk for now, as the DVD business loses more of its luster. And the grand promise of HD DVD and Blu-ray, the next generation of high-definition DVDs, was battered by format wars, delays and all-around confusion, while the business of digital downloads hasn’t moved much beyond its infancy.
Daniel Craig, the blond Bond, bombs. How can an indie actor, who can’t drive a stick shift, be the next 007? Well, with a really good script for “Casino Royale,” very good reviews and a restart of the franchise that takes the character back to his origins. Craig is already signed for his next Bond pic — rumored to be based on the Fleming short story “Risico.” “Casino” is on its way to becoming one of the series’ all-time top grossers, with Sony predicting north of $500 million worldwide.
Katie Couric revolutionizes the evening news. Amazing interviews, commentaries and personality. Plenty of personality. After touring the country in advance of the most-hyped debut in recent memory, Couric has hardly reshaped the evening news business, or even redefined it. Rather, her broadcast has proven to be more like — well like the news was when Bob Schieffer was anchor. Nor has there been a ratings shift. Given the glacial pace of changing viewing habits, more can happen over time, but Couric has proven the limits of how much you can really change a broadcast rooted in the 1960s. Likewise, her departure from “Today” may have created a brief opening in the morning, but Meredith Vieira has proven a seamless replacement and the competitive landscape in the morning is largely unchanged.