Rudyard Kipling's exhortation that we should treat those 'impostors' triumph and disaster just the same ought to be nailed to the walls in film offices everywhere.

January has started with a gloomy sense of introspection in some quarters. The mood of last summer, when the first blockbusters were defying the critics, and before most of us knew what 'subprime' meant, seems a long time ago.

Come the new year, optimism has wilted. That proportion of the writing community that makes any money from film is marching up and down for a bigger piece of the pie.

The credit crunch was having an effect on institutional investment even before that oft-quoted report suggesting the film business wasn't making the profits for investors that the blockbuster box-office numbers indicated.

World DVD revenues continue to slow while promising new media projects such as Wal-Mart's planned download service are shelved. And on the horizon is the prospect of an actors' and directors' strike that is likely to have a global impact.

Perhaps the world's been too busy looking at the silver lining to notice the bloody big cloud - except that these bouts of pessimism, like the hugely inflated enthusiasm of the summer, are largely illusory. That's not to deny the reality of the individual issues.

An actors' strike or a credit crash to follow the crunch would indeed be a disaster for many; it's just that you cannot devise meaningful business strategies for progress with a roller-coaster mentality.

It's a fair rule of thumb that if there is a theory about the film industry that nearly everyone believes, it's probably nonsense. The notion that there is some defined industry to which general principles apply is largely untrue.

It's difficult to neatly separate exceptions from rules. The end-of-year commentaries suggest, for example, the demise of the Hollywood star capable of opening a film. There's a wealth of evidence to back up the claim - but then the year ends with a living, breathing star vehicle in Will Smith's I Am Legend.

Wal-Mart's withdrawal from its download service plans was rightly seen as significant. The supermarket giant has some serious muscle with the studios given the volume of DVD sales it handles.

But the idea that it proves there is no customer appetite for such new media services is contradicted by the extraordinary numbers downloading pirate films.

Then, while research suggests that a private equity-boosted Hollywood had more money than sense last year with margins to match, Universal this week claimed its best ever profits.

If there are difficulties in Hollywood, it's worth remembering it can be the non-US indies that gain and not necessarily as straightforward competitors.

Increasingly, the studios are partnering with non-US productions as efficient distributors of smaller international content in global markets, a trend surely enhanced by the difficulties in turning a big profit from their own blockbuster productions.

But what is necessary is that international companies put themselves in a position to take advantage of those partnerships and create productions that can compete.

Before making the case, it's important to be clear the non-Hollywood world has never marched in unison and never will.

It's a safe bet that India, Russia and particularly China will continue to advance: they're all huge economies in the process of building an infrastructure to support their market potential. For the rest, fragmentation remains the killer. The reason institutional investment hasn't come the way of the non-US indies is simply one of scale, and this year consolidation is very high on the agenda. It's no surprise that in Europe, the ghost of Polygram is invoked increasingly.

That may prove dangerously simplistic - consolidation should be a strategy, not a guiding principle, and today's business is very different from the golden years of the European studio.

But at least the thinking is that it's necessary to devise new strategies to meet changed times. Or as Kipling put it, when the things you have taken for granted no longer work, you don't want to have to 'build 'em up with worn-out tools'.