Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 281: Literati Get Down To Business at BookExpo and BookCon

BookExpo America and BookCon are two of the most important events in the North American book publishing business. BEA is a trade show where the publishing industry talks to itself. Editors, writers, publicists, librarians and bookstore owners all get together for meetings and professional seminars.

BookCon is where the publishing industry talks directly to the world through a conference aimed at book lovers. There are loads of author talks, book signings and even movie screenings. Our own Michael Giltz attended both shows last week and fills us in on all the emerging industry trends and hot new titles.

Meanwhile, Broadway is gearing up for the Tony Awards next weekend to honor the best and brightest productions from the past year. They have a lot to celebrate too, as the most recent Broadway season set a number of records, grossing a record $1.3 billion and selling 13.1 million tickets in all.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Iggy Azalea canceled her upcoming tour, why film composers are suing Hollywood studios and China cracks down on reality television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

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 223: The 2013 Worldwide Box Office – Who Won, Who Lost and Why

Thanks to surging theatrical grosses in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia, the international box office more than doubled North American earnings in 2013, topping out at a record $25 billion. Though Hollywood studio content continues to dominate globally, receipts for local productions are beginning to play a more significant role in many markets. We provide a breakdown of the annual box office for of all the major territories and explain why some fared better than others.

Speaking of breaking records, the telecast of this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had an audience of 112 million viewers. That makes it the most watched television show in U.S. history. As is often the case, the commercials proved more interesting than the game.

Last week the industry also mourned the tragic death of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from what appears to be a drug overdose. Unfortunately, obit writers were also kept busy with the passing of folk musician Pete Seeger, studio executive Tom Sherak and legendary animator Arthur Rankin Jr.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including an Oscar nomination for Best Song gets rescinded, “Back to the Future” is being turned into a Broadway musical and Disney plans to reboot Chip ‘n Dale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 195: Hollywood Exploits 9/11 Imagery For Its Implosive Blockbusters

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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Showbiz Sandbox 188: Remembering Roger – Personal Recollections of the World’s Most Famous Film Critic

The death of film critic Roger Ebert last week after a lengthy and public battle with cancer was followed by an endless stream of heartfelt appreciations. Arguably one of the most recognized and influential movie critics in the world, few were aware of Ebert’s generosity, especially when it came to fellow critics and journalists.

David Poland of Movie City News and Anne Thompson of Indiewire join our hosts in discussing a few of the personal memories each has of Ebert from spending time with him over the years. For instance, did you know filmmaker Michael Moore credits Ebert with helping spread the word about the his first movie? Or that Ebert was an early investor in a little web startup named Google?

Meanwhile, late night television dominated the entertainment news last week as NBC officially announced they would not be renewing Jay Leno’s contract as host of the “Tonight Show” in order to bring in the younger Jimmy Fallon. The move has been widely hailed as a boneheaded attempt to win ratings in key demos as competition increases, but in the end Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” might still bring in more viewers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel, “American Idol’s” declining ratings and why take-down notices issued by movie studios are actually helping pirates, not hindering them.

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