Showbiz Sandbox 250: TV Ratings Have Become Messy, Misleading and Downright Maddening

September 22, 2014

Picking the winners and losers out of this year’s new television shows has never been more difficult. Just ask Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of TV Media Insights, joins us to explain how DVR’s and on-demand viewing have made overnight TV ratings very problematic. Berman says that these days the number of viewers watching a show when it airs is less important than its total audience during the week that follows.

Those looking for entertainment on a screen larger than the average television can head to movie theaters where they can watch the recently released “Maze Runner” in the new Barco Escape format. The experimental offering wraps three screens around the audience to provide a 270 degree viewing experience.

At the other end of the spectrum there are screens of a less significant size, like those found on the ever increasing number of e-readers. Amazon continues to improve its Kindle line and new the latest gadgets from Apple have excited publishing industry observers. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s $2 billion loss, Stevie Wonder heads out on tour and the twentieth anniversary of the sitcom “Friends”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

September 16, 2014

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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Showbiz Sandbox 248: Hollywood Squeezes States For More Tax Breaks

September 9, 2014

California is set to triple their tax subsidies for film and television production to more than $330 million annually in an effort to stem the tide of runaway production to states with larger tax incentives. Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times discusses the growing debate over the value of film tax breaks and whether they actually create new jobs, or just shift them to different locations.

There is absolutely no debate over whether this summer’s box office was down from the previous year. However as we explain, comparing year-over-year box office figures is misleading at best and ultimately a fool’s errand.

In an unusual move the rock band U2 will be giving away its new album “Songs of Innocence” to more than 500 million iTunes users for a limited time. Making the release free to download only serves to further underscore where most artists make their money these days; on tour.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new head of DreamWorks, why it will take a century for anyone to read author Margaret Atwood’s latest work and “The Simpsons” make their way to China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 238: Movies With Subtitles – Cinéma Internationale est Morte

June 2, 2014

Even though subtitles appear more often in mainstream movies like “Avatar”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, North American audiences aren’t any more comfortable with them than they had been historically. In a detailed piece for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman reports that foreign language films are struggling at both the U.S. box office and in ancillary distribution channels. Kaufman joins us for an in-depth discussion about the endangered state of world cinema.

We’ve just returned from this year’s Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade show in the U.S. The good news is that the publishing industry is actively engaging in digital instead of being frightened by out. Unfortunately, everyone was concerned that an ongoing contract dispute between publishing giant Hachette and online book retailer Amazon is a sign of a contentious future.

Meanwhile the Tony Awards will be held next weekend honoring the best productions and brightest talent to emerge from Broadway over the past year. Hugh Jackman is hosting the ceremony which will feature performances from Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel and even Sting. The real money however, will be earned by whoever takes home the trophies for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie poster that’s a little too risqué for the MPAA, director James Cameron teams up with Cirque du Soleil and the record price NBC is charging for a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl.

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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 207: Which New TV Shows Are Hits? Ratings Alone Won’t Tell You

September 30, 2013

The new television season got off to a strong start last week with major broadcast networks celebrating higher prime-time viewership. That is what initial ratings results would lead one to believe, though such figures are increasingly inaccurate. Delayed viewing on DVRs and online has made it more difficult than ever to properly measure viewership in a timely fashion.

Changes are also afoot at the Oscars as the Academy is modifying the way animated films are nominated for Best Animated Feature. Rather than rely on a selection committee, a majority of the organization’s 6,000 members will now be able to participate in the nomination process by viewing films on screeners.

Meanwhile as the film industry moves from celluloid film to digital projection, object based audio is also being adopted over traditional channel based surround sound. Major studios recently made the issue more contentious by mandating any new audio be distributed in a common, non-proprietary format. Will this stifle future innovation in the cinema space?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why iTunes music purchases have started disappearing, Robocop returns to Detroit (literally) and “Star Wars” fans draft an open letter to director J.J. Abrams about how to make the franchise.

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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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