Showbiz Sandbox 270: The Oscars Need A Reboot

What was billed as the closest Oscar race in recent memory turned out to be predictably dull as “Birdman” flew away with four awards including Best Picture. Not even host Neil Patrick Harris could make them more entertaining. Indiewire’s Anne Thompson attended the ceremony and stops by to give us her thoughts on this year’s Oscar winners and the ceremony itself.

We also take a look at the movies that could potentially be competing for Oscar trophies next year. Filmmakers such as Ron Howard, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg and even this year’s Best Director winner Alejandro González Iñárritu all have movies set for release.

In other awards prognostication news, now that the Academy Awards are over, we have the Tony Awards for live theater to look forward to. Though once it looked as if there wouldn’t be any musicals to honor, Broadway will be awash in them come springtime. Even better, there are more new musicals than revivals scheduled for this season.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Starbucks plan to stop selling CDs, the Emmys update their rules and finding an ending to “Mission: Impossible 5” has been… well, impossible.

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Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 261: Sony Hack Gives New Meaning To The Term Box Office Bomb

As if Sony Pictures didn’t have enough to worry about with all their corporate emails and documents being leaked by hackers, now the perpetrators of the cybercrime have threatened movie theaters showing “The Interview” with terrorist attacks. What started out as a voyeuristic peek at the inner workings of a Hollywood studio has turned into a far more serious international incident. This has left the media questioning their own ethics and culpability for originally publishing portions of Sony’s stolen data.

With Sony’s dilemma getting so much attention, the announcement of this year’s Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations seemed rather subdued and tame by comparison. Maybe that’s because an awards season front runner has yet to emerge, or possibly because everyone is just tired of award shows.

Thanks to a listener email, we also discuss why the difference between screens and theaters matters when tallying up box office. The two words are often improperly used interchangeably.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s final show, the latest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year’s lack of platinum albums.

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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 257: Debating President Obama’s Position On Net Neutrality

President Obama finally weighed in on the battle over net neutrality calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as utilities under Title II of Telecommunications Act. This inflamed the war between those who believe such a move is mandatory and others who fear bureaucratic regulation will have the unintended consequence of throttling future development and investment in technology. We do our best to debate both sides of a very contentious issue.

Leaking copyrighted content online however, is an issue everyone can agrees is bad. Marvel Entertainment showed how to handle just such a scenario with aplomb when a leaked copy of the trailer for their highly anticipated sequel to “Avengers” hit the Internet before its official release. We’ll fill you in on Marvel’s immediate and exemplary response.

While we’re on the subject of responses, there’s no question how Taylor Swift’s new album was received by her fans. They gobbled up more than 1.2 million copies during its first week on sale. That’s more than the next 106 albums on the weekly sales chart combined.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Lemony Snicket on Netflix, Matt Damon returns to Jason Bourne and Pixar gears up for another “Toy Story”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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