The following takes place between 8PM and 10PM, on a Friday night, at your local multiplex.

After four years of talk, the makers of '24' are finally moving ahead with a big-screen version, Variety reports. Twentieth Century Fox has hired veteran conspiracy thriller scribe Billy Ray ('Flightplan,' 'Breach') to write the screenplay for a theatrical '24' movie. But will it be an interstitial, between-seasons movie or a series finale?

That all depends on whether Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer can save his own hide one more time -- not just from foreign terrorists or stab-happy Renee (as on last night's episode), but from declining Nielsen ratings. As Entertainment Weekly notes, the show's total viewership is down 10 percent from this time last season, and its numbers among the coveted 18-to-49 demographic are down 15 percent. With no deal in place for a ninth season of '24,' Fox network executives are going to be watching the ratings over the next few weeks to decide whether or not this season will be the last. If it is, the film would likely serve as the series finale.

There's also the difficulty of shooting a full-fledged feature during the hiatus between seasons, although '24' has done it before, with the two-hour TV movie '24: Redemption' that aired between seasons 6 and 7. Complicating matters further: Ray's story idea takes Jack overseas, to Europe.

Sutherland, who's also an executive producer on the show, has said he would like the show to continue for a ninth season, and that a theatrical movie could be a great trailer for the series (and vice versa). Talking to Entertainment Weekly last month, he outlined his idea for the movie plot, which would (of course) take place over a single day. "If we did a film, it would be very feasible to get from Eastern Europe to England in the course of a 24-hour period. Planes, trains, automobiles, things that we've never been able to do before," he said. "Any time you change the physical dynamic of where we're shooting, I think it becomes that much more interesting to the audience."

Fox has a mixed track record when it comes to adapting its long-running series into feature films. 'The Simpsons Movie,' a stand-alone story that hit theaters between seasons 18 and 19 of the cartoon series, was an enormous global hit that earned $527 million worldwide. 'The X-Files', with a mythology-heavy story that advanced the plot between seasons 5 and 6, was a modest domestic hit in 1998 ($84 million) with a worldwide total of $189 million. But the second movie, 2008's 'The X-Files: I Want to Believe,' a stand-alone story released six years after the show went off the air, flopped with just $68 million worldwide.

But hey, at least a '24' movie means Jack should live to the end of this season. Unless they kill him and bring him back later, like Tony.
CATEGORIES Movies