Could 2009 be the year we all get real' The thought springs to mind in contemplating the Alice In Wonderland aspects of the last few months. There has, of course, always been a surreal aspect to the industry but rarely has so much of the business seemed to be out of kilter with day-to-day realities.
A couple of examples: everyone has been talking up 3D as the move that could take cinema into a new era this year. A Deloitte report this week puts it down as one of its key media trends, and rarely has a film had such a long drum roll as James Cameron's 3D Avatar.
Yet around the world, the progress of digital cinema necessary to bring the format to the masses has been painfully slow in development. The 3D wave will remain a long way off shore this year for a very large number of people - a disturbing reality for the industry to grapple.
Then there is the question of film's immunity to recession. The UK Film Council presented a thoroughly upbeat report this week about box-office success and, on the back of spectacular results for UK talent at the Golden Globes, one could be forgiven for thinking a golden age had arrived.
The celebrations of individual achievements are well deserved and everyone in the industry should be delighted to know that, so far, there are few signs that demand for cinema is waning.
Yet off the record there is an air of unease, with many people concerned the recession-proof label might prove a piece of wishful thinking. For the UK industry, as with all others, buoyant theatrical revenues - although not necessarily matched by admissions - will not trickle down to independent producers.
For all the tearful speeches in posh frocks, this still feels like an in-between time, when everyone realises the old world is crumbling but still has to contend with a genuine lack of clarity about new models coupled with a large dose of denial.
Yet there are signs of a new sense of realism that ought to drive a period when the real questions are answered with a sense of direction and determination. At the very least, it seems that few are looking to the past for the answers to today's problems.
Looking at the issues above - the key to driving 3D adoption is the rapid advance of digital cinema. The studios need it to happen and exhibitors will soon realise they should reach an agreement because there is a limit to both the patience of Hollywood and to how far the 3D hype can stretch.
This year it feels like a must-see phenomenon, but in a couple of years the momentum will likely be lost. If that reality drives action, however much painful compromise is necessary, then that's great.
The recession-proof notion will be severely tested this year and cannot be taken for granted. Rapid advances in television and new media may eat away at the margins, even if the fears of cinema being eaten by HD are fanciful and ahistorical.
But there is a growing understanding of the need to think about what audiences want and to maximise the reach of content. This is not a demand-led business but would benefit from thinking like one.
Yet here again there are signs of realism and direction. Developments at Universal and Focus Features look like a classic engagement with the realities of a horribly inefficient distribution system.
During this year, others in a select group will also reveal more about their plans to recreate some of the distribution muscle in Europe that was lost after the demise of PolyGram. In each case, the advances are based on clear reality.
If we are entering a painful but necessary period of realism, then all eyes ought to be on the European Film Market in Berlin. It is worth looking at it not for signs of a widescale industry bounceback after a series of relatively depressed markets - but for hints of new thinking and, more importantly, fresh and focused action.
This year, the odd sacred cow might take a hit but the industry will feel a lot more confident about the future if action is taken now on the real challenges we face.