Showbiz Sandbox 336: Telluride and Toronto Reaffirm the Importance of Film Festivals

With an ever increasing number of high profile movies competing for awards at the end of each year, film festivals such as those in Telluride and Toronto have never been more important in helping promote a release. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from both festivals and gives us a complete rundown of all the films creating the most buzz.

And just as the number of movies worth seeing has grown, so too has the number of television shows. There’s so much good TV these days that in fact, the Emmys are more and more like the Academy Awards, where viewers haven’t even seen most of the Best Picture nominees. Maybe that’s why the Emmys keep honoring the same old shows year-after-year.

Meanwhile, the number of books on offer has grown at least 21% recently thanks to self-publishing. That includes both e-books and print. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has been responsible for thousands of titles, enough to make them the unofficial fifth largest publisher in North America.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Argentina is sending school-aged children to the movies, how the Rio Olympics proved profitable for NBC after all and the Lady Gaga is booked for the Super Bowl half time show.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 336: Telluride and Toronto Reaffirm the Importance of Film Festivals

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 326: How Brexit Will Affect the Entertainment Business

Thanks to the passage of a referendum in the United Kingdom dubbed Brexit, Britain will soon be leaving the European Union. Entertainment companies beyond those in the UK suddenly face a lot of uncertainty and confusion over deals they have already made and will be making in the months and years to come. We discuss how the Brexit vote may affect the entertainment industry.

In other troubling news, the long awaited (as in 20 years) sequel to “Independence Day” opened to disappointing box office returns. This has led to industry pundits spouting erroneous lessons Hollywood can take away from its release. Knowledgeable nuggets such as don’t wait too long to make a sequel (or did they forget about “Star Wars”) and don’t make sequels without the original star (though “Jurassic World” proved that theory wrong just last year).

We also take a look at virtual print fees or VPFs. A letter from one of our listeners asked us to clarify how small independent distributors can afford them. So, we review the history of VPFs, how they work around the world and when studios will stop paying them to theater owners.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a court decides that legendary rock band Led Zeppelin didn’t plagiarize its biggest hit, “Mr. Robot” gets more episodes in its second season and “Star Trek” fan films get a green light from Paramount Pictures (sort of).

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 326: How Brexit Will Affect the Entertainment Business

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 321: New Power Players Emerge In Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival has become one of the most important annual cinema events because it programs a diverse array of movies from all over the world. We’ll head to the French Riviera for this year’s festival to tell you which of the hundreds of films are generating buzz and argue over the elements necessary for the successful exportation of European films.

Meanwhile the Marché du Film, or Cannes Film Market, takes place alongside the festival each year. New industry players such as Amazon Studios and other streaming companies have made some bold moves during Cannes, stealing the thunder from veteran power brokers.

Speaking of streaming companies, Amazon is opening its video platform to users, allowing them to upload content and make money off ads, just like they do on YouTube. And YouTube is dreaming of selling its many customers a skinny bundle of TV channels.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Ukrainian winner of the Eurovision song contest, Sean Penn gets an apology from Tyler Perry and Disney sets a historic box office milestone.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 321: New Power Players Emerge In Cannes

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

Two of the world’s most prominent film festivals are held each September in Telluride and Toronto and, without fail, you’ll find Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, dashing off to both of them. Thompson gives us a feel for what both festivals were like this year, which films created the most awards buzz and which she thinks audiences should be looking forward to.

Thompson also joins us to discuss this year’s Emmy winners. The premium cable network HBO proved it is still at the top of its game, fending off the stiff competition of hot new shows being produced by upstart streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network wept away the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Limited Series categories, winning 14 awards in all.

Meanwhile, in case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must take into account the possibility of fair use before sending a takedown notice. Rather than force possible infringers to mount what is known as an affirmative defense, the court is placing the burden on copyright holders to consider whether a work should be considered fair use.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new over-the-top and mobile streaming services being offered by the BBC and Epix, one of the creators of Batman will finally get the credit he has long deserved (though maybe not the money) and Denzel Washington will produce ten August Wilson plays for HBO.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

Play

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

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.

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

Play

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

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.

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

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

Play