How bad can the movies get?
Claudia Eller and Richard Verrier had a good story in today's Business section talking about how a host of big Hollywood productions could be derailed before they go into production if the studios can't negotiate a new contract with SAG by the end of the month. Even uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer sounded pretty concerned, saying that if SAG went out on strike, "We'd have to shut it down and everybody goes home."
I'm rooting against a strike as much as anybody -- or at least I thought I was until I perused the list of films that our piece said could be affected by a work stoppage. Our chart had 17 films that were either in production or slated for production that could be shut down by a strike. As I read the descriptions of the films, which appear to be a fairly representative sampling of mainstream studio filmmaking, circa 2008, I started to cry. OK, I didn't really cry. But I did find myself in the grip of a minor depression.
Want to know why?
Of the 17 films in our chart, here's the breakdown, in terms of genres worthy of Hollywood attention:
Sequels: 4. (Including follow-ups to "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Terminator" series.)
Remakes of books or TV shows: 5. (Including movie versions of "Hannah Montana," "The Jetsons" and "The A-Team.")
Sci-fi or action thrillers: 4. (Including the video-game based "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," but not including the "Terminator" or "Transformers" installments, which are already listed under sequels.)
Comedies: 4. (Including "A Thousand Words," from the Eddie Murphy-Brian Robbins team that is bringing you "Meet Dave" next month.)
That's it. 0-for-17 when it comes to challenging adult entertainment. No dramas. Nothing with any grand historical sweep. No provocative biopics. No quirky personal films. In short, nothing really surprising at all. I'm not saying they're all dead on arrival -- I'm curious to see if Ridley Scott can find something new to say about the Robin Hood saga, though if you've been watching the wonderfully smart 'n' sassy "Robin Hood" series on BBC-America, it's obvious the bar has been raised pretty high when it comes to a fresh look at the ruffians afoot in Sherwood Forest. (Just watch the trailer up above.)
My point is only this: A strike would be a bad thing for the working class of Hollywood, who need a studio paycheck. But for those of us in the audience, I can't say I'd shed a tear. Most of the indie film productions have waiver deals that allow them to keep shooting, strike or not. Imagine the possibilities. Having a year where indie films could dominate the marketplace would be a year where it might be safe to go to the multiplexes again.
photo of Steven Spielberg, Ian Bryce, and Michael Bay in 2007 via Dreamworks/Paramount