This may come as something of a shock to some people, if they have not already heard this news, and I think many are currently despairing. Ben Stiller’s Night at the Museum, best known for its ubiquity on trans-Atlantic flights, has been green-lit for a sequel. Not only that, the set-up for the plot will no doubt be doubly convoluted and desperate, for the title is Night at the Museum 2: Escape from the Smithsonian.

I will say that when forced to watch it on a flight over the Atlantic, I was mildly entertained. That is, I didn’t want to kill myself, as after Battlefield Earth, or hurt someone else, as after Babel (and the soundtrack had so much potential!). Moving on, as reported by the Washington Post and

Twentieth Century Fox paid $550,000 to the Smithsonian Institution for the right to use its name in Night at the Museum 2: Escape From the Smithsonian, the Washington Post reported. It’s the first time the Smithsonian name has appeared in a title produced for theatrical distribution, the newspaper reported.

Hmmmm. That’s actually a pretty penny just to use the name of a well-known public institution. Would a movie have to pay money to use the name the Pentagon? This isn’t the formal name of a corporation or other business entity, it is true, so what about Rush Limbaugh’s Escape from the EPA or Ron Paul’s Thwarting the Federal Reserve? It seems that the license payment, while legally unnecessary, was practically a prerequisite since shooting had to be done at the museum and this probably just resulted from intense, prolonged negotiations between the parties. In any event, good lawyers are perhaps the most risk averse set of human beings on the face of the earth, for clients do not enjoy being sued, and this was just a cost involved with the overall shifting of risk in the contract.

Let’s hope it is worth it: shooting will take place at the Air & Space Museum, which I think it is safe to say is most people’s favorite, though it has met with declining attendance in recent years. That doesn’t mean it’s the best, but let’s put it this way: attendance increased 25-33% or something (I can no longer find the URL proof!) after the starship Enterprise was installed. I profess to being a bit biased, having made many a pilgrimage to the site, but it is just as large a part of the American consciousness, and its relationship to space flight, as any space shuttle (ironically not including the space shuttle Enterprise, our first space shuttle, because it never soared into full orbit– though this, too, is now a part of the broader National Air & Space Museum).