Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

December 23, 2014

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

December 1, 2014

Digital technology helped Hollywood significantly reduce the production cost of movies that overflow with stunning visual effects. One major downside to such technological advances is how easy it has become to steal, duplicate and distribute pristine copies of digital content. Movie studios were reminded just how vulnerable they are after a cyberattack against Sony Pictures resulted in several upcoming films being leaked online.

Netflix, on the other hand, delivers digital content legally, even if some of its subscribers happen to be access the service surreptitiously from countries where the company doesn’t operate. Netflix announced it would be launching soon in two such countries; Australia and New Zealand.

On Broadway meanwhile, productions are gearing up for what is usually a busy holiday season. A few new musicals however are off to slow starts. We’ll give you a rundown on how all the shows are doing and which are worth seeing.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Russia’s proposed boycott of Hollywood movies, why Hasbro ditched Dreamworks Animation and how Apple intends to bundle Beats Music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 148: Soaking Up This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

May 22, 2012

Uncharacteristic inclement weather drenched the first half of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, though the rain could not dampen the spirits of attendees or distributors looking to acquire hot titles. Are the selections at this year’s festival going to be future award contenders as they were last year with “The Artist” and “Tree of Life”? We’ll let you know.

Of course, Cannes has never been short on movie stars. This year’s festival has featured appearances from Bruce Willis, Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Brad Pitt, to name just a few. However some journalists are finding that getting access to such talent can be costly, especially if you have to pay thousands of euro for interviews. We’ll explain.

One film that didn’t make it into the festival is “Battleship”. The $200 million action film finally opened in North America over the weekend to poor reviews and tepid box office receipts. Like Disney was forced to do with “John Carter”, Universal will likely take a write down on the movie.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including this year’s entries to the National Recording Registry, ABC’s plans to expand “Good Morning America” to the afternoon and the creator of “Community” gets fired from his own show.

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Showbiz Sandbox 109: Making Grammar Fun (And F*cking Funny)

June 27, 2011

When Chris Baker isn’t working on Madison Avenue for a big advertising firm, he is creating some of the world’s most exclusive websites… literarily.  TheWorldsMostExclusiveWebsite.com only lets verified celebrities and big wigs past the home page. His website M. Night School is crowd-sourcing enough funds to send director M. Night Shyamalan back to film school. Baker joins us to discuss his latest effort, “The Elements of F*cking Style“, a book that, unlike the one it parodies, employs sex, drugs and swearing to help teach readers proper English grammar.

After this past weekend, Baker may want to send Pixar back to film school. “Cars 2”, the company’s highly anticipated sequel to their blockbuster “Cars”, was given a drubbing by critics. However, critical acclaim may not matter for a film that earns $2 billion a year in merchandising.

At least nobody’s forcing you to see “Cars 2”. That might not be an option in China where the government is “suggesting” that everyone see “Beginning of the Great Revival,” a propaganda film disguised as a historical epic detailing the founding of China’s Communist Party.

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