Showbiz Sandbox 294: As Box Office Grows In China, So Do Claims of Fraud

September 14, 2015

China continues on its torrid pace toward become the number one movie market in the world having already surpassed its record $4.7 billion box office from last year. However, some Chinese distributors, and even some moviegoers, are claiming cinema owners are manipulating reported grosses on behalf of the government.

Recently a propaganda film titled “The Hundred Regiments Offensive” managed to sell more tickets than was possible based on its number of showings and theater count. Industry executives now say releases such as “Terminator:Genisys” are being unfairly robbed of their true earnings. Yet the market is so big, when “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” debuted last week it gave Tom Cruise the biggest box office opening of his career.

Meanwhile, parts of the world are entering autumn, a time when leaves fall from the trees and Broadway shows fall from the marquees to make way for new shows. We’ll tell you which shows have announced closings, which ones will follow soon and take a brief look at some new productions opening soon.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of Stephen Colbert to late night television, the new owner of National Geographic and how the late Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston will perform once again… as holograms.

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Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

September 7, 2015

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

July 6, 2015

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

June 30, 2015

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited over 300 new members to join their ranks this year, many noted not only the number of young women and minorities among the group, but also 36 international invitees. According to Oscars pundit Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter, that’s the highest number of new international members than at any other time in the Academy’s 88-year history.

We explain why the organization is looking to filmmakers and craftspeople from around the world when adding to their ranks, as well as how that might change the demographics of the Academy moving forward. At a time when international box office has never been more dominant and important, it is nice to see the Academy’s membership become a little more diverse.

E-commerce giant Amazon is also making a few changes, especially in the way it pays authors of titles in its monthly book rental offering. Instead of paying writers for every book a user starts but may not finish, the company will pay based upon how many actual pages a subscriber reads.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why NBC and Univision fired Donald Trump, Harry Potter heads to London’s West End and Apple signs a deal with indie record labels for its new music streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

June 22, 2015

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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Showbiz Sandbox 283: Why Apple Is Cannibalizing Its Own Music Sales

June 16, 2015

Apple finally announced its long rumored music streaming service last week, which is meant to compete with market leaders Pandora and Spotify. The offering seems in direct conflict with the ongoing business of the largest music retailer in the world, but as Ryan Faughnder of the Los Angeles Times points out, Apple may have had no choice since iTunes digital music sales have significantly decreased.

Now, the music industry is hoping that Apple can ride to their rescue once again, as they did with digital music previously, by attracting the large subscriber base required to make music streaming profitable. Faughnder gives us his thoughts on what the new service means to the business, and tells us how competitors have responded to Apple’s entrance into the market.

There seemed to be no competition for “Jurassic World” during its theatrical debut. The film was released globally and gobbled up opening weekend box office records both in North America and internationally, earning more $500 million in just three days. That gross is more than the combined weekend receipts for every other film currently in theaters worldwide.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Rupert Murdoch steps down as CEO of 21st Century Fox, video games get their own hall of fame and what happened when Dave Grohl of the rock band Foo Fighters broke his leg in the middle of a concert.

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Showbiz Sandbox 282: Broadway’s Not So Big Night at the Tony Awards

June 8, 2015

A musical about family, sexuality and suicide along with a play about an adolescent with Aspberger’s syndrome won the top prizes at this year’s Tony Awards over the weekend. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home” was awarded Best Musical and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” earned Best New Play. On paper, both could have been marginal longshots to win Tonys, which can at times go to more commercial productions.

We go over the list of this year’s Tony Award winners and choose a few highlights from a ceremony in which they were quite sparse. It was great to see Kelli O’Hara win a Tony for Best Actress In A Musical after she had been overlooked the last five times she was nominated. Yet, in a year which saw Broadway break box office records, the telecast flirted with all-time low ratings.

Meanwhile, as we record this episode Apple appears set to announce their streaming music service which some big record label executives see as a tipping point that could save the industry. That seems like a tall order given how late the company is getting to market, but it’s never a good idea to underestimate Apple.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Netflix is heading to Spain, Senator Chris Dodd is staying on as head of the MPAA and Showtime is going over the top with its new streaming service.

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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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