Rubbing The Crystal Ball: Movieline Predicts the Hollywood Year Ahead

Today, as you're well aware by now, Movieline celebrates its first birthday on these Internets [SFX: popping of champagne corks, the joyous slap of high-fives, the grinding snarl of a chainsaw carving an ice sculpture of Jim Cameron's bust], and the occasion is being marked with some contemplative looks back at the previous year in entertainment as observed by our bouncing baby e-publication. With the retrospective angle so ably handled by other colleagues, this column's been tasked with looking ahead to the coming year, and so we'll gaze into the Movieline crystal ball and try to discern from the murky, flickering images contained therein what unexpected trends, paradigm-shifting events and other assorted happenings to expect from Hollywood in the next 12 months.

· The Budget-Friendly Superhero Movement Continues Apace

When the recent announcement that two-time Human Torch Chris Evans, a mere ensemble player in the Fantastic Four films, was handed Captain America's bewinged cowl because of a willingness to work cheap and carry that iconic shield for roughly twenty-five Marvel spin-off properties (The Avengers, Avengers Origins: Steve Rogers Has Two Lines While The Scarlet Witch Picks Out Her First Cape, A Very Special Captain America And Hawkeye Thanksgiving, and so on), the studio signaled its desire to keep costs down and throw as much of the tightly controlled budget up on screen as possible. Similarly, over this past weekend, news broke (and then possibly un-broke) that Percy Jackson's 18-year-old Logan Lerman, challenging Taylor Lautner's birthright to appear in every movie demanding a flexible teen protagonist, was close to donning filmdom's most prestigious set of red footie pajamas in Sony's Spider-Man reboot, indicating another turn away from super-high-priced talent. But as 2010 drags on and Hollywood becomes even more hesitant about committing big money to risky comic-book adaptations, they'll squeeze their casting budget line even tighter, deploying scouts to high school drama club productions of recent Glee episodes in search of the next easily controllable, financially sensible rising star. By the time they're filling out their roster of third-string heroes, the new generation will be earning SAG scale plus a modest per diem of lei to spend as they please during their downtime on the Romanian location shoot.

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· A Journey Into The Fourth Dimension Of Filmmaking

Panicked that the 3-D bandwagon meticulously constructed by James Cameron's $300 million investment in the future of cinema is now so overloaded with cheap-looking post-production gimmicks that eye-fatigued, nauseated families will soon start jumping off in search of a traditional two-dimensional refuge, studios will be scrambling for the Next Big Thing for which they can charge a premium at the theater. Among these hastily conceived experiments in luring families away from their 50-inch LCDs and Blu-ray players will be Paramount's "upgrade" of this October's Jackass 3-D release to Jackass: Four F'ing Dimensions Of Discomfort, in which "immersion technicians" supplement each showing by blasting patrons in the face with flatulence-infused compressed air, releasing various untamed jungle creatures into the crowd, and, for truly lucky Johnny Knoxville fans, stapling scrotums to plush stadium seats in the ultimate off-the-screen-and-into-your-lap experience. Projected opening weekend gross: $85 million on the strength of $20 tickets. (Unfortunately, MGM's copycat attempt at 4-D-converting November'sRed Dawn remake will end in tragedy when the impact of a hail of supposedly harmless rubber bullets induce a heart attack in an elderly patron, halting the once-promising experiment for good.)

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