Showbiz Sandbox 214: Go Big Or Go Home – Why Big Budget Blockbusters Are The Safest Bet In Entertainment

November 18, 2013

Over the past year filmmakers from Steven Spielberg to Steven Soderbergh have lamented over Hollywood’s love affair with expensive tentpole releases. However, according to Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse the entertainment industry is obsessed with blockbusters because they work. She explains why in a wide ranging interview about her new book on the subject, “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment”.

Not only are the number of big budget films studios churn out on the rise, apparently so is the level gun violence in hit titles. After studying 945 movies released from 1950 to the present day, researchers discovered gun violence portrayed in movies more than doubled during the time frame.

Meanwhile, in the television world most have forgotten about daytime soap operas. That hasn’t kept companies like Prospect Park from trying to keep shows such as “One Life To Live” and “All My Children” alive online. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be getting any help from the network that originally aired the soaps and are now going to court over the matter.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie for Monster High dolls, a new HBO show for John Oliver, pricy reruns for “The Simpsons” and a new manager for the rock band U2.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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Showbiz Sandbox 192: Cannes Serves Up A True Blue Masterpiece

May 28, 2013

It’s safe to say the 2013 edition of the Cannes Film Festival did not disappoint. The jury, headed by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, awarded “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” with the Palm d’Or, the festival’s top prize. It seems fitting that a film featuring a lesbian love affair (not to mention graphic sexual scenes) should win big in a year when France legalizes gay marriage. That the film may be considered a masterpiece over time doesn’t hurt either.

In fact, there was little to complain about at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, except for maybe the rainy weather. We’ll fill you in on some of the highlights as well as discussing how Angelina Jolie’s announcement regarding her double mastectomy has caused an uproar in the medical community… in a good way.

Our host, Michael Giltz, has soft-launched a new website for booklovers. Still in beta stage as it prepares for an official launch, is designed to help visitors discover what titles are being released and what might want to read next.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including liner notes for digital downloads, Zach Braff teaches Woody Allen about crowdfunding and Amazon’s plan to make fan fiction legit.

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Showbiz Sandbox 190: How The Academy’s New Voting Rules Will Affect The Oscars?

May 6, 2013

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will now be allowing members to vote in all 24 Oscar categories, including Documentary Short Subject and Foreign Language Film. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large and host of the Oscar Talk podcast, believes the change is long overdue. She explains what the old voting rules were and how these new ones will affect the Oscars moving forward.

The Rolling Stones are also making changes, at least to the ticket prices for their current North American tour. With face-value prices upwards of $600 has the legendary UK band and its tour promoters misjudged fan’s appetites for paying top dollar for big acts? Based on the number of unsold tickets to the first few shows of the tour, the answer is yes.

Meanwhile on Broadway, the Tony Award nominations were announced last week. “Kinky Boots”, “Matilda” and “Lucky Guy” lead the pack with the most nominations. We try to make educated predictions, and blind guesses, as to who might walk home with a Tony in June.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including six billion hours of YouTube videos, trademarking superheroes and why studios don’t want to pay a tax on movie tickets in China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 185: HitBliss Bets You’ll Watch Ads To Get Free Movies

March 11, 2013

HitBliss is a new streaming video service that enables users to earn credit toward popular movies and television shows simply by watching advertising. The catch is all the targeted ads are shown up-front, and viewers must be paying attention or they won’t get the credits needed to purchase or rent videos.

Sharon Peyer is the co-founder of HitBliss and spent four years helping launch the company. In this interview she explains how the service originated, how it works and what the future of HitBliss might look like. Peyer believes consumers are actually willing to watch ads so long as the messages are relevant and they can get something out of it.

It’s no secret that streaming media services are all the rage these days, yet it remains to be seen whether they can be profitable too. Pandora’s latest earnings (or lack thereof) beat analysts expectations sending its stock price soaring. Unfortunately, the royalties they pay for music might start rising, along with the number of competitors like YouTube and Apple looking to enter the market.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pink Flloyd’s 40 year presence in the music charts, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for a television sports network and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart takes a crack at making a movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 177: The Bloomin’ Onion Effect: Why Audiences Are Happy Movies Have Gotten Longer

January 14, 2013

In an age where audiences have grown used to the brevity of YouTube clips and 140 character updates, Hollywood is instead serving up super sized movies. Six of the top ten movies from 2012 were over two hours, including comic book movies like “The Avengers”. Even comedies such as “This Is 40” crossed the 120 minute mark and don’t even get us started on “The Hobbit”.

Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times explains the increase in movie running times has a lot to do with the creative control marquee directors have over their films as well as digital tools that allow them to shoot more footage. Surprisingly, Keegan found that most moviegoers appreciate longer running times since it makes them feel they are getting a more value for the price of admission.

Also from the Los Angeles Times is Glenn Whipp, who joins us to discuss some of the surprise Academy Award nominations announced last week and whether the Golden Globes might affect who wins Oscars this year.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a resolution in Superman’s court case, the return of daytime soap operas and whether the film adaption of “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be rated NC-17.

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Showbiz Sandbox 127: Has NBC Lost Touch With Its Community?

November 28, 2011

When NBC removed the quirky sitcom “Community” from their mid-season schedule the show’s cult following went berserk. Fans launched petitions via Twitter and Facebook and in an ironic twist, got the show selected as TV Guide Magazine’s second annual Fan Favorites winner. In a desperate effort to find success with their primetime programming, NBC has given the “Community” time slot to another acclaimed comedy with mediocre ratings, “Up All Night”. Is anyone minding the store at the struggling network, or are all these calculated strategic moves?

Maybe “Community” can be saved by Netflix. That’s not such a far fetched idea now that the video rental cum streaming service is resuscitating the long-canceled “Arrested Development” by producing another 10 episodes. Yet, as Netflix moves into original content, it stock price continues to decline as some of the companies cash flow problems are made public.

Meanwhile, 30 years after it occurred, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department has decided to reopen the case of Natalie Wood’s death. The legendary actress drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1981 while boating with her husband Robert Wagner. Could investigators actually find new evidence so long after the fact, or are they following tips from sources who might have ulterior motives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 111: Can Paste Magazine Ignite A Digital Publishing Revolution?

July 11, 2011

Less than a year after ceasing publication of their print edition Paste Magazine has revived itself in a new digital format. The popular music and culture magazine shunned the traditional print medium and relaunched as a weekly web periodical chock full of long-form features, downloadable music and multimedia content. Editor Josh Jackson reveals how the new Paste mPlayer was designed from the ground up as a next-generation publication. Is Paste giving us a glimpse into the future of magazines?

Soap operas are in the midst of their own transformation. Rather than canceling “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” as planned, ABC has struck a deal to keep the shows alive on the Internet. Will loyal viewers migrate online to keep up with their favorite soaps?

The music industry has also received some good news lately. Not only will the hotly anticipated arrival of Spotify in the United States soon be a reality, but Nielsen Soundscan is reporting that music sales are up slightly this year. Does all of this mean the music business is poised to make a comeback?

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Showbiz Sandbox 100: In Showbiz, As In Life, Size Matters

April 25, 2011

It’s hard to believe we’ve recorded 100 episodes of Showbiz Sandbox. It’s also hard to believe that a 3D porno (okay, an erotic comedy) could ever smash a box office record set by “Avatar”. But that’s exactly what happened in Hong Kong, where “Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” opened to USD $2.19 million. The producers wanted to screen the film in Imax, but were refused, disappointing Karen Woodward, our guest and former co-host, who says that despite all the rumors, size does matter.

If bigger really is better, then Netflix has nothing to worry about. They are set to become the largest subscription entertainment business in the United States with over 23 million customers, beating out satellite radio and cable television. The same can’t be said about any of the music streaming services that Apple, Google and others are working on. Apparently, negotiating a licensing deal with record labels can be quite difficult. Go figure!

The Coachella Music Festival also took the size issue to heart, adding more space for attendees to enjoy the more than 100 bands which performed this year. J. Sperling Reich was there and tells us which artists are worth checking out (Lauryn Hill), and which shouldn’t quit their day jobs (Odd Future).

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Showbiz Sandbox 99-B: The Special Excuse Episode

April 17, 2011

The dog ate our homework!  Here we were, all prepared to fill you in on the week’s top entertainment headlines during this week’s episode, when unexpected travel plans got in the way.

Entertainment journalist extraordinaire Michael Giltz was hoping to talk about daytime soap operas “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” being canceled by ABC.  Of course, we’ve pointed out on numerous occasions that soap operas have been dying a slow death, so it should really come as no surprise.  We had a whole bunch of news about “The Hobbit”, as well as some info on how much it will cost to purchase a 30 second commercial during Oprah’s finale this May.

Co-host J. Sperling Reich attended the Coachella Music and Arts Fetival and was going to fill us in on all the hot acts worth checking out.  But have no fear, we plan on returning next week for our 100th episode and will catch you up on all the news then.  In the meantime, feel free to catch up on some of our past episodes.