Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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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 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Thanks to mobile devices, laptops, streaming video, DVRs and good old fashioned live viewing, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite television shows. However this explosion of viewing options has made it harder to keep track of how many people view each show, precisely when and on what device. Despite the difficulty of getting accurate figures networks still feel the need to report overnight ratings even if they don’t reflect a program’s total viewership.

We propose taking a new approach to television ratings that might fix this problem. For starters stop making a distinction between broadcast and cable networks. Same goes for differentiating ratings based on a show’s specific time slot or which day it airs on. And those are just a few of the suggestions we debate.

Another complicated issue the entertainment industry is grappling with is net neutrality. The FCC is reportedly weighing a “hybrid” solution to open Internet legislation which would classify entities as either wholesale or retail providers. Granted, there is no clear cut way to make such categorizations and consumers could wind up getting stuck with higher broadband fees, but why quibble over details?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams may be headed to court to defend their hit song “Blurred Lines”, movie theaters ban the use of wearable devices like Google Glass and Taylor Swift once again dominates album sales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 189: Contentious CinemaCon; Corporate Coachella

At this year’s CinemaCon movie studios showed up in full force to pitch the world’s largest gathering of cinema operators on a bounty of upcoming blockbusters. Behind the scenes however, some of the larger theater chains were haggling with studios over how to divide ticket sales for tentpole releases such as “Iron Man 3”.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, the promoters of the Coachella Music Festival tried to replicate the event over two weekends. They held the same festival, with the same musical acts, on back-to-back weekends. While at times it couldn’t help but seem like a greedy attempt to extract more money from attendees, there were moments of sheer magic that only happen at Coachella.

Then there is Netflix, which after being ridiculed publicly for a series of ill-advised strategic moves in 2011, has managed to turn its ship around. After successfully producing its own hit-content with “House of Cards”, subscribers have returned, profits are increasing and the stock price is on the rise. Netflix CEO is feeling so good he wrote a manifesto on the future of televsion.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Zach Braff’s successful Kickstarter campaign, how Bittorent is helping market a movie and whether “Django Unchained” will ever be released in China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 146: High Frame Rate Hijinks On “The Hobbit”

Movie theater owners were abuzz after seeing the first extended footage of “The Hobbit” a few weeks ago at CinemaCon. Most however didn’t have anything positive to say about Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated prequel to his “Lord of the Rings” franchise. The filmmaker decided to shoot the film at 48 frames per second, twice the speed of traditional 35mm film, and many who saw the clips felt they looked like a cheap soap opera. Jackson claims the footage was from unfinished scenes, though it left many wondering if high frame rate films are really worth all the hype.

Meanwhile, two months after Disney took a bath on “John Carter” when it bombed at the box office, the studio is raking in the dough on “Marvel’s The Avengers”. While the film may go on to be the highest grossing film of the year (so far), it wasn’t enough to save the job of Disney chairman Rich Ross.

Movies are even making news on Broadway. Leading the pack of Tony Award nominees last week were two musicals adapted from films; “Once” and “Newsies”.

We also cover some of the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks including James Bond’s new publisher, Jack White’s first number one album and a Amazon’s plans to crowd source good television shows.

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Showbiz Sandbox 99: How To Fix Hollywood’s Obsolete Residual Payments System

Labor and contract negotiations are a constant concern in Hollywood. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel is a contributor to The Hollywood Reporter and has written a book about the industry’s labor disputes,  “Hollywood on Strike!: An Industry at War in the Internet Age“. The book grew out of his coverage of the labor unrest that began with the 100 day Writers Guild strike leading to turmoil in all union negotiations over the next two years. Handel proposes a new formula for residuals that could help avoid future strikes.

Blockbuster, the beleaguered video chain which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, was auctioned off to Dish Networks.  How the acquisition will benefit the satellite television provider remains to be seen.

The Grammy Awards are getting trimmed down as they cut more than 30 categories and combine a number of others.  Music industry professionals are split over whether the changes will help the awards show.

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