You don't need to be Alan Greenspan to detect a change of atmosphere in the new year. There's a relatively widespread feeling that 2008 will be a tougher year than 2007.

It's the reason, incidentally, why scrapping major awards ceremonies is an indulgence for the business as a whole, whatever the rights and wrongs of union-producer disputes. Film needs big staged events in the competition for global attention, which is why disrupting the Oscars would be the nuclear scenario in which no-one in film wins.

But putting aside such suicidal tendencies, a more businesslike approach this year will be no bad thing. If attention turns beyond gross revenues towards profits, for example, it will be to the eventual benefit of the industry as a whole - convincing investors that this business means business.

A hard-headed perspective means avoiding the temptation to believe our own propaganda. A favourite example at the moment is the much-quoted notion that the UK has acquired an appetite for foreign-language film.

It's an idea being pushed because of genuine box-office figures. During 2007, a number of foreign-language films did make a strong mark, for example The Lives Of Others, M and Tell No one.

'British film audiences are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are no longer letting subtitles be a barrier to their enjoyment of a great film,' claimed an ad agency survey last week.

Or maybe the industry woke up to the fact there were sophisticated audiences which had been under-served previously. (And of course, a constituency for whom a foreign language imbues a film - and themselves - with some kind of intellectual superiority. Or as Miss Piggy famously put it: 'Pretentious, moi'')

In other words, there is a demographic out there that is not allergic to subtitles and is excited by films from around the world. It is not the case that there has been a sudden outbreak of sophistication.

Last year's myth was that there was a sudden appetite for something called local film that could somehow be differentiated from international product. One could make the same case for other phrases of no value to customers: arthouse, blockbuster and so forth.

Trying to read macro trends into every weekend's box office is a dangerous luxury. Given that it generally takes a couple of years for a film to go from initial approval to release, reading grand shifts in taste of something called 'the public' is a pointless exercise.

Constructing films and campaigns around perceived market needs, however state of the art the market research might be, is severely limited in its application. As a rule of thumb, if you can see a bandwagon, it's already gone.

There's a strong case that last year's flurry of Iraq and Afghan war films failed to realise their potential because they simply missed the public mood by the time they reached theatres.

Focus on the customer rather than some mythological trend should be a given in 2008. That means putting distribution, and indeed marketing, at the heart of all thinking.

The integrity and authenticity of the stories should not be adapted to short-term trends, but towards an understanding of shifting demographics - not just what the audience enjoyed last weekend.

It means accepting that audiences do want film but want it in their homes and on the move as well as in theatres, and that refusing to accept that reality won't work. It means those who talk the language of cultural diversity recognise it's not a cheap phrase to unlock public funding but a responsibility to reach out to audiences.

Concern about the state of the industry and the wider global economy can be turned into a positive if 2008 is a year in which the business gets serious about business.