Showbiz Sandbox 348: Hollywood Studios Get Serious About Shortening Theatrical Windows

December 19, 2016

Studios have been itching to shorten the theatrical release window for their movies since the moment they learned how much money they could make on home video. Of course, cinema owners aren’t too keen on the idea and refuse to book films that can be viewed at home less than three months after they hit theaters. With reports that Apple is talking to Hollywood in hopes of getting early access to movies for iTunes, have the stakes been raised?

Oscar season is heating up as the guilds begin weighing in. First up was the Screen Actors Guild who announced the nominees for their annual awards helping confirm a few front runners. When it comes to foreign language features, the Academy narrowed the list of eligible contenders down to nine, leaving out a few of this year’s favorites.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced a selection of 25 titles to enter the National Film Registry including silent films starring Buster Keaton, “The Princess Bride”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Rushmore”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive shakeup at Warner Bros. Pictures, Julia Roberts comes to television and Amazon goes global with its video streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 347: Who Should Perform What at the 59th Grammy Awards

December 13, 2016

When the nominations for the 59th Grammy Awards were announced last week Beyoncé continued her annus mirabilis by picking up no fewer than nine nods including one for album of the year. She’s in the mix with the likes of Adele, Drake, Justin Bieber and Sturgill Simpson. With musical acts that include Rihanna, Kanye West and Radiohead also up for awards, producers have a wealth of talent to choose from when selecting performers for next year’s ceremony.

The Golden Globe nominations were also announced recently and this year the Hollywood Foreign Press Association actually managed to categorize their film entries properly, unlike last year when the space drama “The Martian” won the prize for best comedy.

Meanwhile, the 2016 Black List survey was published on Monday, highlighting some of the best unproduced screenplays from the past year. Nine of the last 18 Best Screenplay Oscars were featured on the annual list, including “Spotlight”, “Juno” and “Slumdog Millionaire”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the winners of the European Film Awards, why the CBS-Viacom merger collapsed and actress Emmy Rossum demands to be paid as much as her mail co-stars.

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Showbiz Sandbox 346: Critics Are Mixed Up About This Year’s Best Movies

December 5, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end movie critics have begun announcing their picks for the year’s noteworthy releases. As in recent years, critics groups from New York to Los Angeles differ slightly on what the top movie should be. The New York critics group went with the musical “La La Land”, while The L.A. group chose the drama “Moonlight”. To really confuse things the National Board of Review selected “Manchester by the Sea”. What this breadth of selections means is there were plenty of great films to see this year.

Where you see these movies, on the other hand, continues to be a debate, at least for the heads of movie studios. Kevin Tsujihara, the head of Warner Bros., made it known his company would like to release films into the home market soon after their release in movie theaters. He says the studio is having “constructive conversations” with a few cinema operators to make this a reality, but what that really means is anybody’s guess.

There seems to be no confusion however over whether TV networks want to attend the winter press gathering of the Television Critics Association; they don’t. These annual events allow networks to promote new shows while giving journalists a chance to grill the creatives and executive behind them. It looks as if many networks are skipping out on this January’s press tour as the top executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declining their invites.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including DirecTV’s plans to go over the top, Netflix allows users to download movies for offline viewing and the Bee Gees get a new record deal.

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Showbiz Sandbox 345: Awards Season Kicks Off With the Proper Spirit

November 28, 2016

Despite an endless debate as to precisely when the movie awards season begins each year, everyone agrees that the Independent Spirit Awards are one of the more important events. Though not all of the indie films honored by the Spirit Awards will go on to be nominated for Oscars, each year’s nominees provide a list of worthwhile movies on which to catch up.

With 2016 entering the homestretch Hollywood movie studios have begun releasing titles they hope will win big awards or big box office… or both. Disney continues to fire on all cylinders with it’s latest animated release “Moana” as well as “Doctor Strange” minting money during their record breaking year. And “Star Wars: Rogue One” is still a month off.

Meanwhile the media fallout from the U.S. presidential election continues to make headlines, not all of which are accurate. In fact, Facebook and Google are making efforts to crack down on fake news stories as news organizations begin to look at the role they played in recent political events.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including this year’s International Emmy Award winners, why television networks aren’t canceling this season’s failing shows and animator Hayao Miyazaki comes out of retirement to make another movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 344: Did the Media Bungle The 2016 Election?

November 14, 2016

We don’t cover politics on Showbiz Sandbox per se, however we do provide analysis and commentary on the worldwide media and entertainment industries. Thus, we discuss the role, and some might say the culpability, of the news media in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. While there is no doubt some divisiveness over the election of president-elect Donald Trump, there seems to be unanimous consensus that mainstream media blew it… bigly.

We also take a look at the impact the results of this year’s presidential election will have on the entertainment business. Deals currently in the works may have a tougher time getting approved, and decisions that passed years ago may be in danger of being overturned.

China meanwhile has passed a new film industry law intended to crack down on box office fraud and promote “core socialist values”. It weaves a new layer of protectionism into the business by requiring that two thirds of the country’s movie screens be reserved for Chinese films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the why IMDb is going to court over its right to post actors ages, Universal Pictures makes some changes at DreamWorks Animation and Robert Redford’s retirement plans.

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Showbiz Sandbox 343: Teamsters Play a Big Role on Broadway

November 7, 2016

The theater world is presently embroiled in major contractual battles over pay, benefits and credits. The last group you’d ever think would be leading the charge is the Teamsters, who represent a large number of theater, television and film workers, including casting directors. Turns out, if you want to produce entertainment in the United States, you probably have to deal with the Teamsters.

Those working off-Broadway however, are represented by the Actors Equity Association and they are negotiating with the League of Off Broadway Theaters and Producers. Actors are pushing for a historic pay increase claiming their weekly minimum has never kept pace with inflation, let alone the cost of living in the major metropolitan cities where live theater is produced.

Meanwhile the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-DirecTV and other pay television providers for colluding in their refusal to carry SportsNet LA, a channel owned by Time Warner Cable. This comes in the wake of AT&T’s bid to acquire the media company Time Warner, which some fear might consolidate to much media power in too few hands.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the noteworthy ratings for this year’s World Series, who was named producers of next year’s Oscar ceremony and a “The Simpsons” is set up to make television history.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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Showbiz Sandbox 341: AT&T Deal For Time Warner Makes Vertical Integration Trendy Again

October 24, 2016

Last weekend, in a sudden and unexpected deal, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to buy the media conglomerate Time Warner for $85 billion. As its current offerings become more commoditized AT&T is looking to add content to its portfolio through picking up Time Warner, a company that counts among its assets networks such as HBO and CNN, not to mention Warner Bros. Pictures. However, this marriage is far from certain will surely come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.

As awards season gets underway, studios have begun releasing some of their high profile title in hopes of going after Oscar glory. Historically, that meant opening arty films in a limited number of cinemas before going wide after gaining word of mouth. We explain why that’s happening less often these days.

Meanwhile, the Wanda Group is inviting all of Hollywood, and frankly anyone producing film and TV, to its new movie studios in Qingdao, China. They are offering a 40% incentive in hopes of luring productions to the multi-billion dollar facilities, but will anyone take them up on it?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bob Dylan might not be interested in commenting on his recent Nobel Prize award, why the “Deadpool” sequel lost its director and Garth Brooks signs an exclusive deal to stream his music on Amazon’s new service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 340: Bob Dylan Is A Poet and We Didn’t Know It

October 18, 2016

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week there were cries of joy and jeers of contempt over the decision. Music Journalist Sal Nunziato joins us to ponder whether Dylan’s work is in fact literature. He explains why, out of all the musicians that could have received such an award, it had to be Dylan.

Nunziato explains who out of this year’s 19 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should actually get in. Will Kraftwerk finally make the cut? Joan Baez seems like a no-brainer and nobody would be shocked if Pearl Jam makes it through on their first attempt, but what about bands like Depeche Mode and hip-hop stars such as Tupac Shakur?

Meanwhile, there’s never been more ways to listen to music thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Now Amazon has entered the world of music streaming and hopes that soon every song request begins with the word “Alexa.”

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an expansion of the latest Harry Potter franchise, Billy Bush reaches a settlement to depart “Today” and Netflix gives comedian Chris Rock a huge payday.

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Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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