The Oscar Nominations
Once again, there are lots of films that most people haven't seen and don't care about.
Now, of course, the Directors Guild of America might have upended that conventional wisdom. The DGA has settled with the studios, and the question is whether this means that the writers, too, will soon settle and end the strike. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable bet even though the directors' deal—while a big improvement in some respects over what had been offered to the writers—is not one that will cause the champagne to be uncorked at the Writers Guild.
Attorney Jonathan Handel, who's been watching the negotiations closely, says the DGA deal provides a bit more than double what the studios were paying for downloads. The writers wanted a much bigger bump than that. But more importantly, many writers won't like the deal on material that is streamed over the Internet. In simple terms, the studios are offering a formula that works out to about $1,200 a year for programs that are streamed. That is far more than the $250 figure offered in the Writers Guild negotiations. But the writers want the number of viewers to factor into the payment so that they benefit from success.
It seems that the directors' deal is just good enough and just bad enough that it could split the writers, which would probably mean that the Writers Guild will end up accepting it.
So, will the buyers at Sundance bank on that? Hard to say. But many claim to doubt that the buyers will overspend as much as expected. They say the hysteria peaked last year and that this will be a time for caution, given the fact that buyers fared so badly last year.
As Anne Thompson wrote in Variety, 2007 was the worst year ever in terms of box-office results for films that were snapped up at Sundance. Twenty films were bought for $53 million. So far, 14 have been released and grossed $34 million. Among the failures: Grace Is Gone, bought for $4 million. So, while it's easy to get caught up in festival hype, the buyers might remember that result. Maybe they should wear buttons reading, "Grace is gone and the money's gone, too." (link)
Jan. 11, 2008
Round 12: A quick check-in on the eve of the Globes that were flattened:
At this point, it seems clear that two options exist. The studios give a carefully calibrated deal to the Directors Guild that will allow the other unions to end the war. Or, the studios are on a march to the sea with the intention of breaking the Writers Guild. In this scenario, the idea would be that the directors get an unacceptable deal, the writers' unity crumbles, and the Screen Actors Guild, still under contract until the end of June, loses its nerve after contemplating the mangled corpses of writers at the side of the road.
A very articulate comment posted in the Fray by one Peter Noah (yes, the same one listed on IMDB with all those TV credits) states a point of view supporting the studios-crush-the-writers scenario. He writes:
What no one's factored in here is that [the networks' resorting] to cheap reality and game programming actually advantages their bottom line—they get the same paltry rating at a fraction of the cost. And as a bonus, forced into this, courtesy of the writers, they even get to do so without having to withstand critical opprobrium. … [This is] why the Guild leadership utterly miscalculated the effectiveness of this job action.
Jeez, Peter, are you after Hollywoodland's job?
In a Variety article on television ratings, our friend Josef Adalian would seem to underscore the point. He says, "[R]eality shows are doing as well as or better than the scripted shows they've replaced" and that ABC's Wednesday lineup hasn't skipped a beat despite losing Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, and Dirty Sexy Money.
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph from the Sundance Film Festival by Scott Halleran/Getty Images. Photograph of an Oscar award by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.