Tarot cards, tea leaves mostly flop in Hollywood
December 31, 2006 2:14am CST
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - As 2006 winds down, the media are often tempted to offer predictions for the coming year. The temptation should be resisted. Sure, it's possible to extrapolate from trends. Heading into 2006, with budget-conscious studios reining in talent deals, it was possible to predict that Paramount Pictures and Tom Cruise would probably end up in a tough negotiation to renew his lucrative production pact. It even was possible to speculate that they might part ways. But no one could have foreseen that Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Paramount's Viacom Inc. parent, would show Cruise the door with a public drubbing. And even when Cruise and his producing partner, Paula Wagner, left Paramount in August, no one could have predicted that MGM would hand them the keys to its United Artists imprint just three months later. As for those prognosticators who dared to foresee the events of 2006, they almost always got it wrong. Jim Cramer might be a savvy stock-picker on CNBC's "Mad Money," but when USA Today asked him whether the box office would rebound in 2006, he flatly answered, "No! I had a free afternoon, and I wanted to go to the movies with my wife. I looked at the listings, and there was nothing -- NOTHING! -- that I'd even rent! ... Movies stink these days. Sell!"Wrong answer. Theatrical exhibition might not have staged a roaring comeback, but this year's domestic box office returns were up more than 4% compared with 2005. Late-night radio host Art Bell took a more democratic approach, soliciting predictions from his listeners. While most of them weighed in on global conflicts, natural disasters and alien visitations, a few ventured into the even more mysterious workings of show business. One -- possibly a loyal Sony employee? -- flatly predicted that "Blu-ray will win the DVD format war." That war, however, is still in its early skirmishes. Another was far more specific, predicting, "Mel Gibson will release the most controversial movie ever about the U.S. being held hostage by terrorists." Well, Gibson's "Apocalypto" did generate some controversy, but its Mayan protagonists had other things on their minds besides terrorizing Americans. Let's hand it to the Amazing Kreskin, who bills himself as the "world's foremost mentalist." Among his predictions for 2006, he proclaimed, "There will be another announcement of a movie to be made on the life of Houdini." And, sure enough, along came Gillian Armstrong's "Death Defying Acts," starring Guy Pearce as Houdini, which sold U.S. rights to the Weinstein Co. at this year's AFM. Ah, but then Kreskin went too far: He foresaw a revival of interest in late comedian Nipsey Russell, which, sadly, hasn't yet occurred. He claimed innovative theater operators will re-institute double features, a move that hasn't yet swept the exhibition industry. And he flatly predicted, "Steven Spielberg will produce a film in the style of the films of Katherine (sic) Hepburn and Spencer Tracy features."Spielberg did have a hand in producing three films released in 2006: He served as an executive producer of the animated "Monster House," and he was one of the producers of Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima." None of them were exactly Hepburn-Tracy vehicles. Safe to say, then, that when it comes to crystal-balling show business, the only safe prediction is that 2007 is sure to be unpredictable.