Showbiz Sandbox 381: Telluride and Toronto Continue To Shape Awards Season

September 18, 2017

Each year the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals are held so closely together their programming often overlaps as each vies to land titles that will be in the running for major awards (read: Oscars). Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, has just returned from Telluride and Toronto and she fills us in on all the festival season favorites.

While Thompson was in Toronto enjoying movies like “The Shape of Water” from director Guillermo del Toro, film buyers were struggling to find anything to pick up. There was a general sense that all the worthwhile titles had been cherry picked before the festival even began.

Meanwhile the Emmy Awards were held over the weekend honoring the best television from the past year. At this year’s ceremony a disruptive streaming video provider made a big splash, though not the one everyone expected. Hulu took home the Best Drama Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale”, despite Netflix having three shows nominated in the category.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the head of NBC admitting most of its primetime viewership is not watched live, George R. R. Martin’s new TV series and MoviePass surpsasses 400,000 subscribers in under a month.

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Showbiz Sandbox 380: Hollywood Gets Pummeled by Rotten Tomatoes

September 12, 2017

With North American box office declining 15 percent over last year, Hollywood suffered its worst summer box office in 20 years. One main reason, studios believe, is the popularity of the movie review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, which brands titles as either “fresh” or “rotten”. The site has become so influential studios now try and game the system by handpicking critics for certain releases.

Disney, on the other hand, isn’t waiting for reviews to be in on its latest Star Wars movies before tweaking them. “Episode IX” is just the latest to lose its director over creative differences with Lucasfilm, which is quickly gaining the reputation as a tough place to be a filmmaker.

Meanwhile, one of North America’s largest brick-and-mortar book retailers reports that sales are off 6% in the latest quarter as consumers shift to buying online. Don’t worry however, the company has a great plan for fixing their sales problem; open more stores.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon wants to produce a hit television show, the end of an era at Vanity Fair magazine and the mystery behind who will distribute the next James Bond movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 375: The Seedy Side of Show Business is Revealed in “Walking Dead” Lawsuit

July 30, 2017

Six years after AMC fired Frank Darabont from “The Walking Dead,” the hit TV series he created and oversaw, details about why he was axed are emerging during a lawsuit filed by the filmmaker over profit participation. Citing unprofessional and erratic behavior AMC provided profanity filled emails Darabont sent to producers and executives during his tenure as showrunner. This has lead to many in Hollywood asking whether Darabont’s behavior was out of line or if he was simply trying to defend his show?

The lawsuit itself hinges on Darabont’s deal and whether the revenue AMC earns from “The Walking Dead” is significantly lower because the network is making deals with itself at a significantly reduced cost per episode. This is not the first self-dealing lawsuit to be filed by a creative in Hollywood, but given the $280 million being sought, its outcome could affect how the business operates in the future.

Meanwhile, under pressure from the Chinese government, the Dalian Wanda Group says it will no longer seek to acquire international entertainment properties, causing AMC Theatres, one of its own subsidiaries, to publicly distance itself, and leaving Hollywood wondering if funding from China might be drying up.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon will start to distribute its own movies theatrically, Hulu gets nostalgic and Daniel Craig is set to return as James Bond in the next 007 movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 368: Virtual Reality is a Big Winner at the Cannes Film Festival

May 29, 2017

This year’s Cannes Film Festival came to an end over the weekend with the Palm d’Or being awarded to “The Square”, a comedy with socio-political overtones directed by Sweden’s Ruben Östlund. Sofia Coppola won the award for Best Director for “The Beguiled”, only the second time in the festival’s 70-year-history the prize went to a woman.

Though critics found the films selected by Cannes programmers to be underwhelming this year, there was unanimous praise for a virtual reality project created by director Alejandro González Iñárritu which was installed at the festival. We’ll take you inside the unique VR experience and tell you why the fuss being made over it is legitimate.

Meanwhile, this year’s upfronts were held over the past two weeks giving us a pretty good picture about the state of modern television. Here’s the question, if we are presently in the era of peak TV, how come all the new shows networks are trotting out seem so boring.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the controversy over a women-only screening of “Wonder Woman,” Katy Perry signs on to judge the “American Idol” reboot and Steven Soderbergh returns to the directing movies… as we predicted.

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Showbiz Sandbox 366: Shifting TV Viewership is Affecting Ratings, Ad Sales and Future Programming Decisions

May 15, 2017

All the major television networks are preparing their dog-and-pony shows for advertisers at this year’s upfront presentations as they look to sell $9 billion worth of commercial time for the upcoming season. However with viewership continuing to become more fractured, the industry has grown concerned that falling ratings over the past year will lead to lower ad sales. Which raises the question about just how accurate audience measurement is these days.

Networks have begun taking measures to shore up potentially weaker ad sales by demanding harder bargains from production companies, owning more of their own series and making untold fortunes internationally with certain shows. They’re also dabbling more and more with live television specials including musicals such as “A Christmas Story”.

The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will also begin this week, though not without some controversy over two Netflix titles screening in competition, but not in French movie theaters. This has led Cannes to create a new rule beginning in 2018 that any film selected for the festival must have a theatrical release in France.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Spotify might abandon plans for its IPO in lieu of a direct list o the stock market, Cheryl Boone Isaacs decides not to run for another term as head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Kelly Clarkson joins “The Voice” just as ABC announces the return of “American Idol.”

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Showbiz Sandbox 362: What’s The Flipping Problem With Record Store Day?

April 17, 2017

This year’s Record Store Day is just days away, but what began as a way to support independent record stores has turned into a covert commercial endeavor for those reselling the event’s exclusive vinyl releases at exorbitant prices. Sal Nunziato, a former record store owner himself, joins us to discuss why he’s never been all that fond of the annual promotion.

These days Nunziato is a music blogger and drummer in the band the John Sally Ride. Their new album, “A New Set of Downs” will be released later this year, but in a unique twist, is already available on platforms such as Spotify and Soundcloud. He’ll tell us all about it.

Meanwhile, even though ESPN has lost 12 million subscribers in the past six years, the cable sports network is still very profitable, generating $11 billion per year for its owner, Disney. But with skinny cable bundles and online streaming eating into its subscriber base, ESPN is girding itself for an unknown future.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of YouTube TV, Spotify finally signs a new deal with a major record label, and Harry Potter wins big it at this year’s Olivier Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 354: Why the Entertainment Industry Should Care About Net Neutrality

February 6, 2017

President Donald Trump’s selection of Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission has moved quickly to rollback consumer protection regulations long thought to be settled; specifically net neutrality. Rules put in place to ensure an open internet allowing every company to compete on equal footing could get thrown out for ones that favor four telecom giants. That could mean record labels, movie studios, streaming music and video providers wind up paying much more to reach audiences.

In addition, Pai threw out proposed rules that would have allowed cable subscribers to purchase their set top boxes. Consumers in the United States presently pay $200 or more per year to rent such equipment putting $20 billion annually into the pockets of video providers. Will legislative bodies in other countries take similar stances in the wake of such F.C.C. moves?

This all comes as streaming music revenue has helped slow or reverse years of declining income sales for record companies. Nielsen music reports that streaming platforms provided 38% of total audio consumption in 2016, up from 23% in 2014. In fact, these days a glut of streaming music providers are trying just about everything to differentiate themselves in what has become a crowded marketplace.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Disney’s $100 million anti-poaching settlement with animators, Oprah Winfrey joins “60 Minutes” and which media outlets have backed out of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 353: Streaming Giants Raise Ante at Sundance Film Festival

January 30, 2017

As if it wasn’t difficult enough for distributors to find a commercial title amidst the hundreds of films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival each January, video streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon have entered the bidding causing acquisitions prices to rise for the entire market. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from Sundance where she reports most of the films were good, though maybe not good enough to win any Oscars in 2018.

As for this year’s Oscars, the frontrunners became a little more clear with the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild handing out their awards over the weekend. “Hidden Figures” surprised many by taking home the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture during a politically charged ceremony.

Speaking of industry unions, the Directors Guild of America has signed a new contract with producers that gives its members significant raises in subscription video-on-demand residuals. This is welcome news for directors who missed out on sharing in DVD and Blu-ray revenue over the past decade.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of a brand new vinyl record factory, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new venture and streaming music company Tidal finds a new investor.

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Showbiz Sandbox 351: What We Know and Don’t Know About Book Publishing in 2016

January 16, 2017

Looking at how the publishing industry fared over the past year it quickly becomes apparent that there aren’t a lot of hard sales figures thanks to online retailers which don’t publish such data. With e-books accounting for 70% of all adult fiction purchases in 2016 the industry has become impossible to track. One measurable trend however is the record number of e-books being borrowed from traditional libraries.

Meanwhile, the box office has already claimed its first victims of the new year, with three high profile films tanking in their debut weekend. Does this mean Hollywood movie stars can no longer ensure a decent opening weekend?

Maybe moviegoers were simply catching up on all the year end movies that are being hailed during awards season. Nominations were announced last week by the guilds representing directors, producers, cinematographers and costume designers.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including layoffs at Pandora, a Jimmy Buffett musical has plans for Broadway and George Lucas brings his long planned museum to Los Angeles.

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Showbiz Sandbox 350: Hollywood Has Faith in Religious Marketing

January 9, 2017

Organized religion and the film industry have traditionally not played nicely with one another. Recently however, movie studios have been courting Christian filmgoers, in hopes of increasing audiences for certain titles. Brooks Barnes, a staff reporter for the New York Times, joins us to discuss one of Hollywood’s latest marketing trends.

The Writers Guild and the National Society Of Film Critics have both weighed in with end of the year honors. But will any of their choices matter come Oscar time?

The same question could be asked about the Golden Globes which were held last weekend. “La La Land” and “Moonlight” walked away with the top prizes as they continue to march through awards season as this year’s front runners for a Best Picture Academy Award.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Kodak is bringing back celluloid (sort of), how talk show host Conan O’Brien is going viral and Norway ditches FM radio.

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