It’s an annual ritual for newspapers to chronicle the news stories of the past year that had the biggest ripple effect upon the rest of the world.
But there were some major events in 2007 that didn’t happen, creating an effect that was arguably even more profound.
Here are 2007’s top 10 showbiz stories in print media and on the Web resulting in the conventional wisdom that it was only a matter of days — or hours — before these events would occur.
But we’re still waiting.
1. The glut of summer sequels spells disaster: This past summer had more than a dozen high-profile sequels and three-quels, with “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” setting the theme for the summer by bowing within a four-week period. It was predicted that the sequels would cannibalize one another, but the logjam of familiar fare proved a benefit to the box office, which saw four films pass $300 million for first time ever. The latest “Harry Potter,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Rush Hour 3” and “Live Free or Die Hard” also were surprisingly strong performers.
2. The WGA would keep working through the end of the year. Most in Hollywood predicted that members of the Writers Guild would work past the Oct. 31 expiration of their contract and would wait until spring to go on strike, probably in conjunction with the Screen Actors Guild (whose pact expires June 30).
Film studios and TV production companies made contingency plans for a spring strike as the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers began negotiations in July. But those talks proved spectacularly unproductive. After the AMPTP held fast to its demand for a total revamp of the residuals system, the WGA announced Oct. 19 that more than 90% of guild members had given the guild their proxy to call for a strike. The AMPTP changed its resids stance, the guild took its DVD demands off the table, but it was too little too late. When talks collapsed late in the evening on Nov. 4, the WGA went on strike at midnight.
Also surprising pundits: The Directors Guild did not start negotiating its new pact with the AMPTP (its deal is also up June 30) by the end of the year, breaking a tradition of early talks that the helmers have adhered to for the past 11 contract sessions.
3. Par-DreamWorks stability: The film biz had constant rumors about the Melrose Avenue lot — Brad Grey and/or Brad Weston would leave, Stacey Snider was thisclose to taking over, Chris Albrecht was about to arrive, etc. In 2007, Paramount and DreamWorks were to industry media what Britney Spears was to celebrity tabloids: the gift that kept on giving, providing daily rumors and lip-smacking gossip, from the exit of Par Pictures prez Gail Berman and co-prexy of production Alli Shearmur through the wiretap woes of Pam Abdy. The exec comings and goings were a source of endless gossip, as were the feuds between high-level execs. There was firm speculation on the fate of the honchos and of DreamWorks itself, but as the year ends, they’re still together, at least in the Hollywood sense.
4 Mergers and selloffs: Showbiz and Wall Street prepared for a flurry of big-business deals that never happened. NBC Universal parent General Electric did not get out of the entertainment business. Nobody ever bought Yahoo, despite many rumored suitors. Time Warner did not spin off AOL, its cable biz or any of its parts. AT&T did not buy EchoStar. Endeavor and UTA did not merge (that was only one of the many rumors of major shifts within the agency biz). Warner Music Group and EMI failed in their attempts to purchase each other; Terra Firma (which did buy EMI) was said to be ready to sell its recorded music division to WMG. So far, that hasn’t happened either.
5. Boffo “Grand Theft Auto IV”: The vidgame was supposed to bow in October, expected to break sales records and bolster the bottom line of consoles. Sony, for example, was hoping the game from Take Two would boost sales of the PlayStation 3. The “GTA” launch was delayed until next spring, causing many to quickly revise their 2007 projections. But don’t worry about the vidgame biz. Its revenue through October was $10.5 billion, a 49% jump over the previous year — making the 5% B.O. jump seem paltry.
6. The end of the high-def DVD war: The $24 billion-per-year homevid biz declared that either Blu-ray or HD DVD would emerge as the new format in 2007, but instead, the divide got more pronounced. In January, Warner Bros. announced Total HD, a hybrid disc compatible with both formats. No other studios signed on, and it never launched. Paramount and DreamWorks joined Universal by putting all its titles on HD DVD alone, make competition for the formats even tougher, since Fox, Disney and Sony are solely Blu-ray. WB still supports both, but a resolution could come in 2008 — especially if WB goes with Blu-ray. But if it goes with HD DVD, both sides will be even.
7. Home networking: This one seems like a perennial contender. A revolution was supposed to happen, with a flood of products to help people watch Internet content on their TV sets. But the Apple TV was the one Apple product that hasn’t been a huge success, and other products like Vudu are still a niche biz. People in 2007 watched a lot more content on their computers but haven’t made the connection to their TV set. Despite all the predictions, they’re still watching Internet-delivered content on their computers, whether downloading movies, streaming TV episodes or watching YouTube vids. And they’re still using satellite or cable systems for their TV sets.
8. Private equity coin will flow freely into the TV biz. Outside funding created a glut of films in 2007 and provided much-needed cash infusion. Of course, biz prognosticators declared that this money would soon begin flowing to the TV side to finance studio production slates. Some even forecast that private coin would create a utopian business model allowing top-tier hyphenates to follow their artistic heart’s desire, unencumbered by the whims of pesky studio and network execs.
9. The TV ad business will collapse. The Internet’s devouring of more ad dollars was predicted to deliver a fatal blow to TV. In fact, Internet ad sales are robust, but so is TV. This year’s $16 billion-plus upfront sales market for broadcasters and cablers was stronger than most predicted (though nets are likely heading into some trouble now that the 2007-08 TV season has been cut off at the knees by the strike), and the scatter market has been red hot.
10. The newspaper biz will collapse. Yes, many people get their news from the Internet. But newspapers are still here. Key piece of evidence: You are reading this story in a newspaper. (Unless you’re reading it at Variety.com, in which case this entire argument collapses.)
(Josef Adalian, Ben Fritz, Phil Gallo, Dade Hayes, Cynthia Littleton, Pamela McClintock, Dave McNary and Tatiana Siegel contributed to this report.)