Showbiz Sandbox 275: TV Casting Isn’t Just Black and White

March 30, 2015

Thanks to the success of new shows like “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Black-ish”, “Fresh Off The Boat”, “Jane the Virgin” and, of course, “Empire”, Deadline Hollywood reports this year’s pilot season is experiencing an explosion of minority casting. Networks are now writing roles specifically for ethnic actors and demanding series pilots feature a diverse cast. Though long overdue, the suggestion that the “pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction” ruffled a few industry feathers.

In less controversial news, the Library of Congress announced the 25 recordings it will be adding to the National Recording Registry this year. Among them are classics by The Doors and Radiohead, Broadway cast albums and hits by The Righteous Brothers and Johnny Mercer. There are even a few historical wax cylinder recordings dating all the way back to the 1890s.

And just when you thought the awards season was long over, the New York Independent Film Critics held their annual meeting to select the IRA Film Awards. Our host Michael Giltz was on hand to argue, discuss and vote for the best in movies from last year with a prestigious group that believes they have better taste than all those other awards shows. We’ll go over the list of winners.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including who will replace Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show”, the popular television series “Downton Abbey” calls it quits as does Zayn Malik, a now former-member of One Direction.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

March 23, 2015

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

March 2, 2015

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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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 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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