Showbiz Sandbox 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

August 5, 2013

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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Showbiz Sandbox 198: One Flop Does Not A Studio Break

July 15, 2013

Though the media might like to focus on Hollywood’s failures whenever a big blockbuster tanks, the reality is most movie studios can weather a flop or two. Modern-day entertainment conglomerates include music, merchandising, consumer products and travel divisions of which the movie studio is much smaller part. Disney, for instance, made nine times as much revenue in 2012 on its television media holdings than it did with its movie studio.

Even so, without a pipeline of even modestly successful movies, an entertainment company’s entire operation can eventually suffer. That’s why even though mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is in a bit of a dry spell lately, (see “The Lone Ranger”) someone in Hollywood will always be willing to bet on his next project.

The past week also saw a seemingly endless supply of news stories concerning the health of celebrities. Placido Domingo was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, Randy Travis is in serious condition after suffering a stroke, Elton John canceled a tour after emergency surgery for appendicitis and it was all topped by the untimely death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith at age 31.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Meredith Vieira’s return to television, a Twitter storm over “Sharknado” and Joan Rivers’ dispute with the Writers Guild.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 195: Hollywood Exploits 9/11 Imagery For Its Implosive Blockbusters

June 19, 2013

As “Man of Steel” sets the worldwide box office aflame, the latest Superman reboot also serves as yet another example of a Hollywood blockbuster exploiting the imagery of 9/11 for apocalyptic purposes. Kyle Buchanan, the Movies Editor at New York Magazine, would like to see filmmakers stop relying on meaningless urban destruction.  He joins us to discuss his recent article calling for an end to the “orgy of gratuitous building-battering” in big budget movies.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two filmmakers quite familiar with blockbuster movies.  Now, the directors who helped launch the modern day tentpole release are predicting an “implosion” for Hollywood, along with a handful of other pessimistic prognostications.  We’ll tell you what they had to say in a recent panel discussion.

Last week also saw Apple finally get into the music streaming business with the announcement of iTunes Radio.  Only time will tell whether Apple will be able to compete with Pandora, Spotify and all of the other existing players in the space, though we’re not overly impressed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a legal victory for Hollywood interns, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to “The Terminator” and The Muppets head to Broadway.

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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, BookFilter.com 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 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

March 4, 2013

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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Showbiz Sandbox 183: Going Inside This Year’s Oscars With Anne Thompson

February 25, 2013

As one of the hosts of the Oscar Talk podcast and the editor of Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog, it’s no wonder Anne Thompson beat out most other award season experts by correctly predicting 19 out of 24 winners at this year’s Academy Awards. Thompson attended the Oscar ceremony in-person and confirms that Seth MacFarlane was no better live than on television.

Less than 24-hours after “Argo” won Best Picture and shortly after returning from the Governor’s Ball, Thompson recaps a whirlwind weekend that had her hobnobbing at the Spirit Awards awards on Saturday then walking the red carpet at Sunday’s Oscars. Rough life, to be sure.

In television news, it turns out most the of the hour-long network dramas premiering at mid-season have failed to find an audience. Maybe now that Nielsen is including online streaming in their ratings viewership will rise for some of these shows, but we wouldn’t count on it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Billboard revamping music charts to include YouTube views, Shia LaBeouf drops out of his Broadway debut and Google’s plans for music streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 173: Spoiler Alert! Your Movie Has A Kicker

December 10, 2012

Frustrated at not knowing if the movie he was watching would have any special scenes during or after the credits Chris Ramey did something about it. Ramey is the founder of What’s After The Credits? a website that details kickers, as they are often called, to popular movies, television shows and video games. He tells how what inspired him to create the site and how its grown in popularity.

Speaking of popular, “Skyfall” is not only the most successful James Bond film of all time, it has also become the highest grossing movie of all time for Sony Pictures and the United Kingdom. Yet despite positive reviews, the film hasn’t been appearing in any of the recent year end critic polls.

Grammy nominations were announced last week and with acts like the Black Keys racking up five nominations, including Album of the Year, they had a rock and roll vibe. It is nice to see the Grammys include a lot of fresh faces in some of their top categories and refrain from knee-jerk nominations for veteran performers. We’ll provide a rundown of the nominations.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the expansion of iTunes to 56 new countries, Netflix signs an exclusive content deal with Disney and how much Psy is making off of his hit song “Gangnam Style”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 171: Cost Of Sports Could Be Cable’s Unbundling

November 26, 2012

The rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games through 2021 were recently scooped up by ESPN for a cool $5.6 billion. That’s nothing compared to the $15.2 billion the network will be paying the NFL for “Monday Night Football” over the next eight years. Now News Corp. has coughed up billions for a stake in the New York Yankees network and are on the verge of paying a rumored $6 billion for the rights to air Los Angeles Dodger baseball games for 25-years. Some cable operators are now saying the skyrocketing costs of sports programming is out of control and unrealistic.

Since we’re talking about billions of dollars, we may as well mention Sony Pictures. Thanks to films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Skyfall” the studio has taken in more than $4 billion worldwide this year at the box office. Lionsgate isn’t doing too bad either, earning $1 billion with releases such as “Hunger Games” and “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”.

In fact, the North American box office is on pace to set a new record this year, much like the grosses recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The $290 million was a new high for the four day period.

Of course, we also cover all the big entertainment headlines from the past two weeks including the ongoing sexual abuse scandal rocking Sesame Street, the death of actor Larry Hagman and NBC’s big win during the November sweeps.

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Showbiz Sandbox 170: Why Star Wars Is Better Off Without George Lucas

November 12, 2012

Two weeks ago Disney surprised everyone by purchasing Lucasfilm for a pricetag of $4 billion. Like the studio’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009, the move makes perfect sense since Disney can exploit the Star Wars franchise in films, television and theme parks. Given the quality of the prequels, it’s not hard to see why fans were relieved to hear George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars universe, will have a limited role in the sequels Disney plans on releasing.

Speaking of lucrative franchises, the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall” was released to both favorable reviews and huge grosses. The twenty-third installment of the Bond series may earn over $1 billion at the international box office. And all without 3-D ticket surcharges.

Though audiences continue to reject paying a premium for 3-D movies in theaters, consumer electronic manufacturers report that the sales of 3-D capable televisions and Blu-Ray players is on the rise. However just because a TV can play 3-D content doesn’t mean people will take advantage of the technology.

Our former host Karen Woodward joins us for a rundown of all the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks, including the huge sales figures from Taylor Swift’s new album, Mark Wahlberg signs on for the next “Transformers” film and CBS finally signs up for Hulu.

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