Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

November 3, 2015

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

September 29, 2014

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

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Showbiz Sandbox 231: Could Vince Vaughn Be The Next David Letterman?

April 7, 2014

Late night talk show personality David Letterman surprised everyone last week by announcing that he would be retiring as host of the “Late Show” in 2015. News that Letterman would be exiting on his own terms after 30 years as a late night headliner broke in a thoroughly modern way; first via Twitter, then through the media’s career retrospectives and ultimately with stories about who would make a good replacement. We nominate Vince Vaughn.

In other television news, Time Warner Cable is in a bitter dispute with satellite provider DirecTV. The two companies are butting heads over the broadcast rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games TWC paid more than $8 billion for last year. With negotiations seemingly stalled, more than 30% of the market’s paid television subscribers have been blacked out of each game’s telecast.

Meanwhile, this year’s Broadway season is about to kick off in earnest on the run up to the Tony Awards. Our own Michael Giltz gives us a complete rundown on which productions he’s putting his own figurative money on.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a trademark dispute over Mickey Mouse, a new contract for the Writers Guild of America and the continuing struggles of Entertainment Weekly.

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Showbiz Sandbox 230: It’s Curtains For Celluloid at CinemaCon

March 31, 2014

Every spring movie theater operators from around the world converge on Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. During the week-long convention cinema owners are bombarded with industry facts, attendance figures, educational seminars and endless footage from upcoming releases. Over the years advances in digital projection have become an increasingly important topic at the show.

It’s no secret that cinemas have been slowly converting their facilities from traditional 35mm projection to digital. There was no better indication that the days of celluloid film prints are definitely over than the number of vendors at CinemaCon demonstrating the next generation of digital technology, including immersive sound and laser projectors.

When it comes to live theater, there is no doubt that New York’s Broadway and London’s West End are the leaders of the pack. Our own Michael Giltz reviews his previous predictions and investment advice by recapping the past year’s biggest money making productions, as well as a few financial losers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the fall of “Duck Dynasty”, a decline in paid cable subscribers and Oprah Winfrey’s plans for a national tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

January 6, 2014

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

December 23, 2013

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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Showbiz Sandbox 191: The Misunderstood Math Behind Movie Ticket Prices

May 13, 2013

The average cost of a movie ticket dropped to $7.94 in North America during the first quarter of 2013. That’s according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade group that keeps track of such figures. Patrick Corcoran, the vice president and chief communication officer of NATO, explains how the average ticket price is calculated and the perennial complaint that such a low amount can’t possibly be correct.

Meanwhile, television networks have been working overtime putting together their schedules for next season. That also means they’ve been making public which shows didn’t make the cut, a.k.a. got canceled. Did your favorite show survive for another season, or did it go the way of series such as “Smash”, which was axed as had long been predicted.

Such bad news isn’t something the Rolling Stones have to worry about. According to the legendary rock group’s concert promoter reports that tickets to shows aren’t selling is completely untrue. In fact, tickets were priced at an exorbitant $600 on purpose to keep the secondary market at bay.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including YouTube’s pay channels, Barbara Walter’s retirement and legislation that calls for a la carte cable offerings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

March 4, 2013

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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