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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Showbiz Sandbox 162: Did The Justice Department Destroy The Literary Ecosystem With E-Book Settlement?

September 10, 2012

Despite strong opposition from authors, publishers, retailers and the public, the U.S. Department of Justice settled their anti-trust case with three major publishers over e-book price fixing. Even an explanatory comic strip from a well regarded copyright attorney couldn’t prevent a ruling that some industry analysts say will enable Amazon to dominate the market. However, not all involved parties have settled, with Apple, Macmillan and Penguin awaiting trial on the charges.

The headlines weren’t any better for the movie business, where theatrical attendance over the past weekend was the worst on record in more than 10 years. It probably doesn’t help that Fox announced they would make movies available for digital download shortly after they hit theaters.

On the other hand, magazine publishers have a lot to cheer about for a change, especially when it comes to the skyrocketing sales of overseas titles.

Of course we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including the return of ratings powerhouse “Sunday Night Football”, Daniel Craig’s future as James Bond and why the Oscars telecast will be singing a new tune next year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 159: Raiders of the Lost Email

August 20, 2012

We are incredibly proud of our audience here at Showbiz Sandbox and believe our dedicated listeners are the most important members of our team. Imagine how upset we were upon discovering some listener email hadn’t been making it to our inbox for the past few months. We rectify that situation on this episode, revisiting a few of the popular topics from past shows.

We debate the merits of bringing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to the big screen again… the incredibly big screen. In fact, it’s been restored for presentation in Imax theatres.

Turns out the Olympics was the most watched television event in U.S. history, but even with that success NBC confirmed that they were lowering the salary of popular late-night talk show host Jay Leno, and laying off two dozen staff members from his show.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including saying goodbye to “The Closer” , the untimely death of filmmaker Tony Scott, a Nordic expansion for Netflix and why YouTube is where all the cool kids discover new music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 152: Rupert Murdoch Shows Off His Split Personality

July 3, 2012

Last week, in-between sending Twitter posts about the break-up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, News Crop. chairman Rupert Murdoch announced he would be splitting one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates into two different companies; one for the publishing entities, the other for the much more profitable film and television operations. Could the tycoon be trying to focus attention on something other than the ongoing phone hacking scandal he is embroiled in?

Speaking of scandals, Charlie Sheen returned to television with a bang (no pun intended). His new series, “Anger Management” set viewership records for a scripted comedy series. If the first 10 episodes prove to be a ratings hit, FX has promised to produce another 90 episodes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 professionals to become members and it looks like they’re becoming more of an equal opportunity group. In fact, they have finally included hair dressers in the makeup category at the Oscars, renaming it Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news, the “Today” show’s continuing troubles, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night television and the record breaking ratings for Eurocup 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

June 4, 2012

Last week legendary filmmaker George Lucas announced he would be stepping down as the head of Lucasfilm and hired veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy to head up the company that bears his name. With Lucas retiring what will happen to his blockbuster franchises such as “Indian Jones”? Will we finally get a restored version of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Blu-Ray?

Rather than retire after his long, successful run heading up Warner Bros., Alan Horn will step in as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Many industry insiders wonder if the executive who oversaw the “Harry Potter” series will have a creative role in what is perceived to largely be a babysitting position.

The Tony Awards will be held this weekend and we give you the lowdown on who has the best shot at taking home Broadway’s top honor.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a new king of late night television, Oprah’s new book club and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley should work together to stop piracy.

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Showbiz Sandbox 149: Cannes Falls For “Amour”

May 29, 2012

This year’s Cannes Film Festival concluded with “Amour”, a film by Austrian director Michael Haneke, winning the Palme d’Or. The movie about an elderly couple in Paris features two renown French actors and was a hit with festival audiences. Anne Thompson from Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog says the jury rewarded many of the noteworthy films at this year’s festival, though entries with stars like Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman were rather disappointing.

Speaking of winners, last week Phillip Phillips was crowned the winner of this season’s “American Idol”. The big loser however may be the singing competition show itself, since it is no longer the most watched television show in the nation, a title it held for a historic seven years. That honor is now held by Sunday Night Football.

Apple rather convincingly shredded the antitrust suit tbe Justice Department filed against them and top publishers over the price fixing of e-books. Apple’s response points out a number of innacuracies in the suit and manages to bolster their own case, while notably not helping the publishers with their defense.

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Showbiz Sandbox 145: Rise of Playlisters Marks The Death of Music Blogs

April 16, 2012

Last week Doug Freeman, a music critic for the Austin Chronicle, wrote an opinion piece in response to a Hypebot interview in which Sean Adams, the founder of Drowned In Sound, suggested music blogs are no longer influential. Freeman joins us to explain that if blogs were simply gateways to new music discovery, then the streaming playlister is the new music blogger. New influencers and kingmakers will emerge in a shifting editorial landscape.

We also take you to the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music Festival where more than 150 acts strutted their stuff to an more than 100,000 attendees. Headliners such as Radiohead and The Black Keys proved to be big hits, but Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg stole the show by performing with a picture perfect hologram of the late Tupac Shakur.

“The Hunger Games” continues to feast on the North American box office, but the number one movie in the world this past weekend was “Titanic 3D” thanks to a record breaking opening in China.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Mel Gibson’s public fight with a screenwriter, an extended run for “Game of Thrones” and an anti-trust lawsuit against major publishing houses.

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Showbiz Sandbox 142: Is The MPAA Rating System Broken?

March 26, 2012

Though the MPAA often rates more than 700 films per year, the number of rating disputes rarely reaches the double digits. This year however eight films have already appealed their ratings and it’s not even April. Has the MPAA lost touch with modern culture or are filmmakers beginning to push the boundaries with edgier content? Ethan Noble, of Motion Picture Consulting, helps guide filmmakers and studios through the ratings process. Noble, who recently tried to appeal the restrictive rating on the documentary “Bully”, provides an overview of the MPAA’s rating system and tells us whether it needs to be fixed.

Speaking of the MPAA, they released their annual report on the motion picture industry. Moviegoing may have declined 4% in North America, but overseas revenue grew more than 5% and is booming in markets such as China and Japan.

We previously predicted that Broadway shows such as “Sister Act” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” would close by now. Despite playing to half empty theaters and consistently losing money, they are still running night after night. What gives?

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Showbiz Sandbox 140: Nollywood Love – Inside The Booming Nigerian Film Industry

March 13, 2012

Oil rich Nigeria may be best known for political upheavals and brutal civil wars, though over the past twenty years the country has given birth to a thriving film industry. New York Times Magazine contributing writer Andrew Rice explains that what started out as a surplus of blank VHS tapes has grown into what is now called Nollywood; the world’s third largest movie business.  Nollywood films now suffer from the same issues faced by Hollywood and Bollywood; piracy and escalating production costs.

The budget for Disney’s “John Carter” was about five thousand times that of the average Nollywood film, which is probably why a $100 million worldwide opening is seen as a bit of a disappointment. Directing his first live-action film, Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton seems to be getting most of the blame for the movie’s lack of success, though it just as easily could be pinned on a studio full of senior executives that lacked experience producing big blockbusters.

Speaking of pricey failures, Fox canceled its sci-fi series “Terra Nova”. Producers hope the show will be picked up by another network, though at $4 million per episode few can afford it.

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Showbiz Sandbox 133: Oscars Celebrate The Past; Sundance Discovers The Future

January 24, 2012

This year’s Oscar nominations have finally been announced and they are full of surprises. Actors and actresses which seemed like shoe-ins for a nomination were completely overlooked. Films that nobody thought would be considered for Best Picture wound up in the list of nine nominated titles.

Meanwhile up in Park City, Utah this year’s Sundance Film Festival is underway. We’ll go over all the movies that have festival goers (and acquisitions executives) buzzing as well as fill you in on why indie films may finally reach wider audiences.

“American Idol” returned to the airwaves to lower ratings. Ryan Seacrest, the show’s host, may not care though since he took another step last week toward becoming the next Dick Clark by partnering with Mark Cuban and AEG on a new cable television network.

We also cover some of the week’s top entertainment headlines including Adele’s continued dominance of the music charts, the death of controversial anti-piracy legislation and the shuttering of Megaupload over copyright infringement.

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