Showbiz Sandbox 334: Music Streaming Wars Heat Up Over Exclusive Releases

The competition between Apple Music and Spotify for subscribers has been cutthroat over the past year. Now comes word that Spotify may be retaliating against artists working with Apple. We’ll take a look at how exclusive new releases have raised the stakes in the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy.

We also explain why it’s time everyone stopped discussing how abysmal North American summer box office was. After all, 2016 box office and attendance is actually up over the previous year, which had record earnings.

And in what might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, China is questioning whether Universal’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation breaks its antitrust regulation.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Jackie Chan will be awarded an honorary Oscar, Frank Ocean makes history by topping the Billboard charts with a self-released album and Baz Lurmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is being turned into a musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 327: The Academy’s Class of 2016 Gets A Lot More Diverse

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited a record number of filmmakers, craftsman and executives to join its ranks in 2016, including a record number of women, people of color and international artists. While this helps make its membership more diverse, the Academy itself points out, this amounts to a drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, the Jay-Z digital music service is generating some of its own headlines, literally. Word leaked out, probably from within the company itself, that the streaming music service was in talks to be acquired by Apple. Even though people are consuming more media than ever, the streaming music business may not be a quick route to profitability.

The Chinese box office, on the other hand, has been growing at an astronomical pace over the past few years; 50% last in 2015 alone. However, those gains might be slowing down, as the growth rate has dropped to 20% so far. Maybe the prediction that China would become the biggest movie market in the world by 2017 were premature.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lawsuit over special effects technology which is causing problems for ongoing productions, a host of “Top Gear” crashes and burns, though not literally, and longtime newscaster Nancy Grace will depart CNN.

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Showbiz Sandbox 324: Can These 100 People Fix The Academy’s Diversity Problem?

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences failed to recognize the work of minority actors and filmmakers for the second year in a row, the organization promised to double the number of minorities within the next four years. The Los Angeles Times has taken matters into their own hands by suggesting 100 industry professionals that could make the Academy more diverse. Tre’vell Anderson, the staff writer who oversaw the project, joins us to explain how the list was compiled and what the response has been.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Disney has scheduled four weeks of reshoots for the Star Wars spin-off “Rogue One”. There is some speculation that Disney felt the film was too dark, however it could just be the standard reshoots multi-million dollar blockbusters often go through.

Sony made some revisions of their own last week to their senior executive ranks. Specifically the heads of both the motion picture and television groups both announced their departure from the studios. What’s noteworthy about the news is that both had worked at the studio for 25 years.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including when the Broadway hit “Hamilton” might lose its leading man, Nintendo revamps Pokemon in China and Amazon expands its content offerings in Japan.

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Showbiz Sandbox 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

In recent years, Chinese-owned companies have become the film industry’s biggest power players by scooping up production companies and cinema chains. The latest example came when AMC Theatres, owned by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, announced it will acquire Carmike Cinemas to become the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese are so hot on the cinema business given that their box office surpassed that of North America during the month of February for the second time ever. Yet if you were to ask some financial analysts, Hollywood Hollywood is starting to look like the video game industry before it imploded; bigger budgets, fewer winners and more losers. Is Hollywood about to shrivel up like Pac-Man?

Then there are those like Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Facebook, who are trying to convince Hollywood that it’s time to start making big movies available in consumer’s homes the same day they hit theaters. Is there any business model in which that could actually work?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the authors nominated for this year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, music sales in France plummet and Kevin Spacey won’t be heading up Relativity Media after all.

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Showbiz Sandbox 313: Is Kanye West Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

Kanye West is making headlines for exhibiting manic behavior around the upcoming release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Is it erratic behavior or a canny promotional tactic? And is West’s album actually finished, or are the many changes he’s making before its official release all part of an intentional, yet public, artistic process.

In more serious news, music heavyweights are beginning to speak out about the court battle between artist Kesha and music producer Dr. Luke. The musician is attempting to break free of a record contract which ties her to a man Kesha says “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her for years.

Meanwhile, we’re going to look at a worldwide box office phenomenon that has set records in the United States and around the world. Not “Deadpool”, but rather China’s “The Mermaid,” which had the highest per screen average of any movie in North America this past week.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new owner of movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon’s plans to distribute Woody Allen’s next movie and new rules for the Eurovision song contest.

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Showbiz Sandbox 311: Oscar Season Remains Uncharacteristically Unpredictable

The movie awards season remains as confusing as ever, with the Directors Guild handing out its top honor to “The Revenant”. Will this have any impact on an Oscar race in which “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” also look like major contenders? No one knows but we’ll try and sort it out.

Meanwhile, it appears Time Warner wants to join Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal as an owner of the streaming service Hulu. There’s only one catch; they’d like Hulu to stop showing all episodes from the current season of a TV series. Maybe they want to buy it so they can shut it down.

Over at Viacom, Sumner Redstone stepped down last week after a court mandated the 92-year-old would submit to a medical exam to determine his competency. Bowing to reality, Redstone resigned from his position as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Leslie Moonves is officially taking over CBS, but after daughter Shari Redstone publicly announced it wasn’t a good idea for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to take over, he did just that.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon plans to enter the retail space, ESPN plans to enter China and Matt LeBlanc is named as the new host of the popular automotive TV program, “Top Gear”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 308: Hollywood Thinks It Has Netflix’s Numbers

With Netflix now available in 190 countries, the upstart video-on-demand service has grown so big Hollywood studios and television networks are getting seriously worried. Sure, they’ve earned millions by licensing their content to Netflix, but they now find themselves competing with the company for new projects, not to mention the industry’s most sought after talent.

TV networks are especially upset Netflix can claim to be a success without ever revealing their ratings. Some have even gone so far as to commission studies to determine the true viewership of Netflix programming. Meanwhile, Netflix has become concerned about viewers bypassing geographic restrictions by subscribing to their U.S. service from international territories.

When it came to this year’s Academy Awards nominations however, Netflix was overlooked in all of the major categories. So were minorities. For the second year in a row all of the acting nominations and those for best director went to caucasians, giving rise to a repeat of the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including NBC’s plans to produce a live version of the musical “Hairspray”, Al Jazeera America is being shut down and the death of actor Alan Rickman.

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Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited over 300 new members to join their ranks this year, many noted not only the number of young women and minorities among the group, but also 36 international invitees. According to Oscars pundit Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter, that’s the highest number of new international members than at any other time in the Academy’s 88-year history.

We explain why the organization is looking to filmmakers and craftspeople from around the world when adding to their ranks, as well as how that might change the demographics of the Academy moving forward. At a time when international box office has never been more dominant and important, it is nice to see the Academy’s membership become a little more diverse.

E-commerce giant Amazon is also making a few changes, especially in the way it pays authors of titles in its monthly book rental offering. Instead of paying writers for every book a user starts but may not finish, the company will pay based upon how many actual pages a subscriber reads.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why NBC and Univision fired Donald Trump, Harry Potter heads to London’s West End and Apple signs a deal with indie record labels for its new music streaming service.

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