Showbiz Sandbox 305: Should “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Box Office Records Require An Asterisk?

December 21, 2015

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records the world over and became the biggest movie opening of all time by earning $529 million. We explain why in countries such as Japan and South Korea, the latest “Star Wars” not only didn’t win the weekend, but in some cases earned less than earlier installments of the franchise. We also look at the breakdown of which formats audiences favored when buying tickets.

George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977 and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989. We weigh in on the annual list of films added to the registry by the Library of Congress, charged with selecting new entrants. It always makes for a fascinating mix; we’ll discuss what made this year’s cut there and why. Hint: It’s not always artistry that counts… and no we’re not looking at you “Top Gun.”

In music news, it turns out online radio services such as Pandora will soon be paying more to license songs. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to prevent her fans from having to pay more to purchase tickets to see her in concert. We’ll tell you about the growing backlash against the secondary market for concert tickets and what some artists are doing about it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how “Star Wars” bumped Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie out of a historic movie theater, Howard Stern signs a new deal with SiriusXM and the list of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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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 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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Showbiz Sandbox 203: Star Trek Blu-Ray Leaves Frustrated Fans Lost In Space

September 2, 2013

In what seems to be an attempt to bolster sagging DVD and Blu-ray sales Hollywood studios have begun offering “retailer exclusives” on releases of their hit titles. “Star Trek Into Darkness” is the latest example of how different versions of a movie are being paired with varying sets of special features based on which store the disc is being sold. Trekkies will have to purchase duplicate copies of the latest installment in the franchise in order to collect all the bonus material.

Singers Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus pulled a stunt of their own which helped twerk record sales. Cyrus set tongues wagging with her racy performance that MTV Video Music Awards, but she may be laughing all the way to the bank since her on-stage gyrations have helped boost sales of her new single.

YouTube is filled with user generated videos featuring hit songs by Thicke and Cyrus. If you use these recordings in the wrong way, you could get a takedown notice for copyright infringement. One music publisher however, may have picked a copyright fight with the wrong legal scholar.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the retirement of a legendary animator, Netflix’s foray into stand-up comedy and Hollywood’s big legal victory over a popular file sharing service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

August 5, 2013

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 185: HitBliss Bets You’ll Watch Ads To Get Free Movies

March 11, 2013

HitBliss is a new streaming video service that enables users to earn credit toward popular movies and television shows simply by watching advertising. The catch is all the targeted ads are shown up-front, and viewers must be paying attention or they won’t get the credits needed to purchase or rent videos.

Sharon Peyer is the co-founder of HitBliss and spent four years helping launch the company. In this interview she explains how the service originated, how it works and what the future of HitBliss might look like. Peyer believes consumers are actually willing to watch ads so long as the messages are relevant and they can get something out of it.

It’s no secret that streaming media services are all the rage these days, yet it remains to be seen whether they can be profitable too. Pandora’s latest earnings (or lack thereof) beat analysts expectations sending its stock price soaring. Unfortunately, the royalties they pay for music might start rising, along with the number of competitors like YouTube and Apple looking to enter the market.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pink Flloyd’s 40 year presence in the music charts, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for a television sports network and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart takes a crack at making a movie.

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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 144: Measuring Media Proves Difficult In The Digital Age

April 9, 2012

Whether trying to figure out how many users the streaming music actually has or why audiences have abandoned television shows in the ten o’clock hour, it turns out keeping track of media metrics often requires fuzzy logic.

In one instance the ratings for CNBC in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic plummeted when three people included in Nielsen’s measurement sampling turned 50. Meanwhile, Billboard’s new formula for ranking singles caused Justin Bieber to narrowly miss hitting the number one spot.

There have been no problems counting money at movie theater and Broadway box offices. “Hunger Games” has helped movie grosses continue their record setting pace for the year and over on the Great White Way, three musicals pulled in over $2 million during Easter break.

Of course, we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week, including Ryan Seacrest’s Olympic efforts, Vince Vaughn’s bad timing and YouTube’s confusing relationship with Viacom.

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Showbiz Sandbox 141: Mike Daisey Learns The Difference Between Journalism and Art

March 19, 2012

Monologist Mike Daisey began performing his one-man show, “The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs”, hoping to highlight the poor working conditions suffered by workers who make Apple products in Chinese factories. When it was learned that Daisey made-up most of his accounts of meetings with factory employees, it stirred up a debate over the changing definition of journalism. Are Daisey’s monologues really human truths in story form, or was he simply bending the truth to tell a better story?

Meanwhile, fans of British television are probably already familiar with Acorn Media. Now current and classic British programming such as “Upstairs Downstairs” can be watched on the company’s new streaming service, Acorn TV. Most recently Acorn acquired the rights to the popular World War II mystery series “Foyle’s War” as well as the estate of Agatha Christie. Miguel Penella, the company’s CEO, joins us to discuss some of Acorn’s bold moves for survival and long-term growth.

In music news, Billboard has finally figured out a way to include online music streaming figures in their weekly Hot 100 chart. Even so, some skeptics are pointing out that music video plays still aren’t being counted.

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