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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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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