Showbiz Sandbox 359: Entertainment Workers Put Faith In More Perfect Unions

March 13, 2017

Trade unions and guilds are not a new concept in the entertainment industry, yet they seem to be making headlines lately as more niche craftspeople elect to join them or have them negotiate their contracts. Last week the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the U.S. voted to join SAG-AFTRA and the United Scenic Artists, which represents set designers on Broadway, was able to sign its first contract with the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers.

One major reason for all this recent union activity is the growing number of entertainment industry workers whose pay falls below a living wage. When the star of a hit telenovela airing on an NBCUniversal network needs to hold a second job as an Uber driver, you know there must be a problem.

Meanwhile, the influx of financing into Hollywood coming from China may be coming to an end. The Chinese government has begun to restrict the outflow of capital from the country to stem what they deem “irrational” foreign investments while at the same time stabilizing local currency. This new regulatory oversight helped kill Wanda’s $1 billion deal for Dick Clark Productions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how a rapper made history by knocking himself off the top of the album charts with his next release, HBO heads to Latin America with original programming and why we’ll have to wait a little longer for those “Avatar” sequels.

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Showbiz Sandbox 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 340: Bob Dylan Is A Poet and We Didn’t Know It

October 18, 2016

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week there were cries of joy and jeers of contempt over the decision. Music Journalist Sal Nunziato joins us to ponder whether Dylan’s work is in fact literature. He explains why, out of all the musicians that could have received such an award, it had to be Dylan.

Nunziato explains who out of this year’s 19 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should actually get in. Will Kraftwerk finally make the cut? Joan Baez seems like a no-brainer and nobody would be shocked if Pearl Jam makes it through on their first attempt, but what about bands like Depeche Mode and hip-hop stars such as Tupac Shakur?

Meanwhile, there’s never been more ways to listen to music thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Now Amazon has entered the world of music streaming and hopes that soon every song request begins with the word “Alexa.”

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an expansion of the latest Harry Potter franchise, Billy Bush reaches a settlement to depart “Today” and Netflix gives comedian Chris Rock a huge payday.

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Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

April 18, 2016

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

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Showbiz Sandbox 268: Going Backstage At The Grammys With David Wild

February 8, 2015

The Grammy Awards were held last weekend to honor the year’s best music. David Wild, one of the producers and writers of the Grammys telecast (not to mention a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), takes us behind the scenes at the ceremony. He explains what it’s like to get Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj on the same page and the difficulty of describing Sia’s unique stage performance to Stevie Wonder.

Meanwhile, a couple of big media conglomerates announced significant management changes over the past week; Amy Pascal will be stepping down as head of Sony Pictures due in no small part to the recent cyber attack against the company and Tom Staggs is anointed as the most likely candidate to take over for Disney CEO, Bob Iger when the latter steps down in 2018.

Speaking of big name execs, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler finally submitted his proposal for net neutrality, which would regulate ISPs to enforce open internet protections.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why actor Michael Gambon is retiring from the stage, the uproar over news anchor Brian Williams and how Kodak is keeping film stock alive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 265: This Year’s Oscar Nominations Aren’t Only Racist, They’re Anti-Lego

January 20, 2015

While debating Oscar nomination snubs has become an annual tradition, the criticism over this year’s list of nominees had to do with racial bias and a lack of diversity. Specifically, a film about civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was nominated for Best Picture, but its female director and lead actor, both black, were surprisingly overlooked.

Yet few seemed to notice is that “Selma”, the film in question, is only the twelfth film directed by a woman to receive a Best Picture nomination in the 86 year history of the Academy Awards. On only four occasions has the filmmaker also been nominated for Best Director. And six of these movies were nominated during the last 10 years, pointing towards a positive trend for female helmers.

Also under represented in the Best Picture category at this year’s Oscars are hit movies. Sure, all of the nominees were successful, but only “American Sniper” earned big bucks at the box office. If only Legos were eligible to vote… maybe they’re film would have been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Barbara Streisand’s latest platinum album, Amazon’s move into theatrical film distribution and why James Cameron is delaying the “Avatar” sequels to 201.

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Showbiz Sandbox 212: Should There Be An Oscar For Casting Directors?

November 4, 2013

Last week Woody Allen wrote an “open letter” to the film industry pointing out that casting is the only single card credit at the beginning of a movie which is not honored by the Academy Awards. Like many before him, the filmmaker argued casting directors are crucial to any good movie, especially his. Should the Oscars consider adding a category for casting directors to recognize them alongside editors, cinematographers and other craftspeople?

Meanwhile, a film that hasn’t started the casting process in earnest is “Star Wars: Episode VII”. The movie doesn’t even have a script yet, which is why its filmmakers have been trying to convince Disney to push its release date back a year to 2016.

In the television world there was bad news for Time Warner Cable last week. Their dispute with CBS which led to a month-long blackout of the network cost the company over 300,000 subscribers. This likely means other cable providers will be afraid to pick fights with broadcasters over the rising cost of programming. Digital rights, however, are an entirely different battle.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “slow TV” is such a hit in Norway, the rising cost of the “Hunger Games” franchise and the Jonas Brothers officially call it quits.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

June 4, 2012

Last week legendary filmmaker George Lucas announced he would be stepping down as the head of Lucasfilm and hired veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy to head up the company that bears his name. With Lucas retiring what will happen to his blockbuster franchises such as “Indian Jones”? Will we finally get a restored version of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Blu-Ray?

Rather than retire after his long, successful run heading up Warner Bros., Alan Horn will step in as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Many industry insiders wonder if the executive who oversaw the “Harry Potter” series will have a creative role in what is perceived to largely be a babysitting position.

The Tony Awards will be held this weekend and we give you the lowdown on who has the best shot at taking home Broadway’s top honor.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a new king of late night television, Oprah’s new book club and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley should work together to stop piracy.

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Showbiz Sandbox 140: Nollywood Love – Inside The Booming Nigerian Film Industry

March 13, 2012

Oil rich Nigeria may be best known for political upheavals and brutal civil wars, though over the past twenty years the country has given birth to a thriving film industry. New York Times Magazine contributing writer Andrew Rice explains that what started out as a surplus of blank VHS tapes has grown into what is now called Nollywood; the world’s third largest movie business.  Nollywood films now suffer from the same issues faced by Hollywood and Bollywood; piracy and escalating production costs.

The budget for Disney’s “John Carter” was about five thousand times that of the average Nollywood film, which is probably why a $100 million worldwide opening is seen as a bit of a disappointment. Directing his first live-action film, Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton seems to be getting most of the blame for the movie’s lack of success, though it just as easily could be pinned on a studio full of senior executives that lacked experience producing big blockbusters.

Speaking of pricey failures, Fox canceled its sci-fi series “Terra Nova”. Producers hope the show will be picked up by another network, though at $4 million per episode few can afford it.

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