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 365: As Cord-Cutting Grows, Media Company Revenue Falls

May 8, 2017

Media company stocks took a beating last week with a one-two punch from cord-cutting and a soft ad market. The first quarter of 2017 saw pay cable subscriptions fall by over 700,000 in the United States, the largest ever such loss. This has caused some concern that cord-cutting has accelerated just as major advertisers have started to spend less on marketing.

However, television networks may just be shifting where revenue comes from. Rather than huge carriage fees and ad rates tied to huge viewership, networks may now be earning money off licensing content to streaming video providers and selling ads on digital platforms. There’s just one problem; such digital platforms pay far less than networks used to getting.

Warner Music Group is also suffering from shrinking revenues thanks to consumer migration to streaming online services. The company signed a new licensing agreement with YouTube, but they aren’t happy with a deal they felt forced into accepting. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the multiple “Game of Thrones” spin-offs planned by HBO, Harry Potter heads to Broadway and the return of “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

April 18, 2016

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

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Showbiz Sandbox 279: “Carol”, “Amy” and “Saul” Stand Tall At Cannes

May 18, 2015

It is impossible to see all the films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but halfway through the 68th edition at least three films have scored some positive buzz, all of them about tortured souls. Director Todd Haynes is leading the pack with “Carol” a film about repressed sexuality set in the 1950s, the Hungarian entry “Son of Saul” set in a Nazi concentration camp and “Amy” a powerful and moving documentary about the life of singer “Amy Winehouse”.

From the official screenings to the behind-the-scenes press conferences, we give you all the ins and outs of this year’s Cannes, including the world premiere of Pixar’s “Inside Out” which wowed attendees. Join us for our annual trip to the south of France.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, television networks have been busy selling advertising for next season’s lineup at the upfronts. We’ll tell you which shows got canceled, which new series got picked up and whether the television season has become year round.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the BAFTA TV Awards, David Lynch heads back to “Twin Peaks” again and “American Idol” sings its final note.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

May 19, 2014

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 235: When Apple Can’t Beats Them, It Buys Them

May 12, 2014

As rumors began to circulate that Apple was purchasing Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion everyone from music industry executives to stock market analysts all asked the same simple question – why? The lucrative deal makes perfect sense from Beats perspective, but what does Apple see in the high-end headphone manufacturer that made them spend so much money to acquire the company.

Speculation has centered on two possible reasons, both of which are probably accurate. The first hypothesis is that since Apple already heavily promotes Beats products through their retail stores, they may as well make them a part of the family and keep all the profits. The second theory is that Apple is hoping Beats streaming subscription service can help them with their own streaming music offerings.

With digital music sales first plateauing and now declining, Apple may be predicting that more consumers are wanting to stream their music rather than purchase it. We discuss Apple’s big purchase and provide in-depth analysis on what it means for the company and the state of the music business.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the renewal of “American Idol” for a 14th season, NBC pays billions for the rights to broadcast the Olympics over the next 20 years and Comedy Central finds a replacement for Stephen Colbert.

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Showbiz Sandbox 233: Net Neutrality – Is The Fat Lady Singing?

April 28, 2014

The concept that all data sent via the Internet should be treated equally has allowed services such as YouTube and Netflix to develop and prosper on a level playing field. However a new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission would effectively kill net neutrality by allowing companies to pay for faster access. Will the public revolt in mass protest or will big business ultimately prevail?

A similar question is being asked as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether Aereo infringes on broadcaster’s copyright by retransmitting over-the-air television signals via the Internet, or if the company’s services are legal under current law. The future of television may hinge on the answer.

There seems to be no dispute over the state of opera these days as many regional companies are suffering from a number of problems, not the least of which is declining ticket sales. Most recently the San Diego Opera announced it would be shutting down after running out of money.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal to stream past HBO series, Ryan Seacrest stays with “American Idol” and why record labels are suing Pandora… again.

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Showbiz Sandbox 227: The Oscars Attract Big Business, Big Ratings and Big Money

March 4, 2014

If you weren’t surprised by any of the winners at this year’s Oscar ceremony, you may have Oscar prognosticators like Anne Thompson to blame. Indiewire’s editor-at-large was at the big show and joins us to discuss the telecast, the show, and all the money and effort poured into the annual awards season. Thompson also fills us in on her new book “The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System“.

The business side of the film industry isn’t the only aspect of movies that is evolving. The sound accompanying new releases is getting a few enhancements thanks to immersive 3D audio. This has created an industry battle over audio formats.

Speaking of disputes, 19 Recordings, the music label responsible for “American Idol”, is once again suing their partner Sony. This time the argument is over the issue of whether digital tracks are sold or licensed to buyers. There is a huge difference in the royalty paid for each.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Tyler Perry leaves Lionsgate, Paramount is bullied into changing the marketing for “Noah” and Dreamworks Animation takes a write-down on “Turbo”.

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