Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 215: How Many Music Streaming Services Does It Take To Make A Profit?

December 2, 2013

Just when you thought the online music streaming space couldn’t get any more crowded or competitive, along comes Deezer. The French company already boasts 5 million paying subscribers in 80 countries and now plans to launch in the United States, where Spotify and Pandora are the market leaders. However, none of these companies are actually profitable, which may be why services like Rdio went through a round of layoffs in November and is shuttering.

Profitability seems to be an issue for Sony Pictures too. The movie studio lost $181 million last quarter leading to the announcement of significant cost cutting measures in the wake of some summer box office duds.

Disappointing earnings and a declining subscriber base are also a problem at Time Warner Cable. As telcos and satellite providers continue to erode their market share, rumors have begun swirling that the second largest cable operator in North America might be acquired by one or more of its competitors, including Comcast.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Thanksgiving weekend’s record breaking box office, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” lowers the curtains on its Broadway run and the mediocre sales figures of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 139: Why The Music Industry Is More Brutal Than Ever

March 5, 2012

With nine different streaming services there are more ways than ever to listen to music these days. With the likes of Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Mog and Pandora all competing for our attention and media dollars, some have argued that there is too much competition in the market and is primed for a major consolidation. Which services will survive and why? Will Amazon, Apple or Google launch there own services? We try to answer all these questions and more.

Meanwhile Harvey Weinstein is once again fighting the MPAA over the ratings for one of his films. Public figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the chorus of those opposing the R-rating which the Weinstein Company’s school bullying documentary received. Unfortunately, if “Bully” is released without a rating, movie theaters may be forced to treat it as an NC-17 film.

Former co-host Karen Woodward, joins us to run down some of the top entertainment news stories of the week including, James Spader’s departure from “The Office”, Mike Tyson’s Las Vegas show, and Random House trippling the price of e-books for libraries.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 135: Is The SAG-AFTRA Merger Good For Hollywood?

February 6, 2012

After years of humoring the idea it looks as if two of Hollywood’s largest labor unions may actually merge. Detailing the history of SAG and AFTRA, Jonathan Handel, a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter and an entertainment attorney, explains the reasons behind why the unions might want to merge and what it all means for the entertainment industry.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLVI proved to be another ratings winner and as in previous years, is expected to be the most watched show of the year, if not all-time. Were audiences tuning in for the game or to watch Madonna’s extravagant half-time show?

Despite gaining a million subscribers last year the minuscule royalties paid by Spotify to independent musicians barely budged at all. Some industry veterans have grown weary of subscription music services and are advising they be used for promotional purposes only.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new CEO at Sony, why you won’t see Bon Iver perform at the Grammys and how Facebook might turn U2’s Bono into a billionaire.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 36: Can “Avatar” Beat “Titanic”? Heck No!

January 7, 2010

“Avatar” continues its takeover of the box office, while “The Hurt Locker” appears to be taking over the awards season. James Cameron’s 3D labor of love entered the list of top 10 grossing films of all time and may be poised to become the highest grossing movie ever, a title now held by another Cameron film, “Titanic”. “Avatar” is now one of only five films to ever earn over a billion dollars world-wide.

Now the prognostication begins about whether “Avatar” (and Cameron) will be nominated for an Academy Award? His ex-wife’s movie “The Hurt Locker” certainly seems to be headed that way. Director Kathryn Bigelow is earning raves for the film and she is being being heavily favored to be the first female to win a Best Director Oscar. Between Bigelow and Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated”), female directors, or at least the discussion of their recent success, is the topic du jour in Hollywood.

Another favorite topic at the beginning a year is reflection and prediction. What were the top reviewed movies of the decade? Did you see any of them? Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 28: Why Spider-Man Is Hard Up For $52 Million

November 9, 2009

We don’t always talk about theater on the podcast, but Los Angeles Times staff writer John Horn wrote a story too good to resist. The Broadway debut of “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” has found its greatest enemy is the budget. Horn joins us to talk about the story behind one of the most troubled productions in Broadway history and how he got the scoop (not to mention the musical’s script, soundtrack and a video promo reel).

But first, Michael Giltz eats another serving of crow this week, as the Michael Jackson rehearsal documentary “This Is It” held up respectably and indie-darling “Precious” grossed a stunning $1,800,000 on just 18 theaters over the weekend. “Precious” will no doubt be nominated for a few Oscars come awards season. Speaking of the Academy Awards, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are teaming up to host next year’s Oscar telecast. Karen Woodward though the decision to go with Martin and Baldwin was dated and hopes they don’t hijack the show. On the other hand, Michael and J. Sperling Reich thought it was a good choice.

In more frivolous news, Nicolas Cage is suing his former money manager, Samuel J. Levin, for $20 million in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he enriched himself while “sending Cage down a path toward financial ruin.” Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 3: Award Season Redux

May 11, 2009

Star Trek

“Star Trek” cleans up at the box office earning $76 million in North America over the weekend while “Wolverine” pulled in another $27 million. Fox sets release dates for its blockbusters in Mexico, though actors may not start kissing on telenovelas for a while. “Billy Elliot” heads up the Tony Award nominations. Bono and the Edge are headed to Broadway with a Spider-Man musical, but Andrew Lloyd Weber is falling behind on his sequel to “Phantom of the Opera”.

“Slumdog Millionaire” and “Twilight” lead the MTV Movie Award nominations, but does anyone care. Big media and celebrities top the Webby awards. NBC announces its primetime schedule and there are rumors about a few CW shows. Looks like the “Gossip Girl” spinoff is a no-go. As scripted television looks to shrink their writing staffs, CBS debates whether they should bring back such game shows as “The Dating Game” and “Let’s Make A Deal”. A computer bug delayed nearly three days of Nielsen television ratings, however advertisers may want to start using more effective “engagement” ratings anyway.

Disney CEO Bob Iger discusses Hulu and informs everyone that new media is here to stay. The MPAA teaches everyone how to pirate DVD’s using a camcorder, in fact they prefer the method over the ripping of content off DVD’s. Revenue at Warner Music plumets as do satellite radio subscribers at Sirius XM. Looks like Roman Polanski isn’t going to return to see if a court will drop his 30-year-old rape charges. Finally, now that the William Morris/Endeavor merger has been announced, clients have started jumping ship in all directions.

“Star Trek” Draws $72.5 Million

Swine Flu Curbs Telenovela Kissing

Billy Elliot Leads Tony Nominations

Bono, The Edge Team Up For “Spider-Man” Musical

“Phantom” Sequel Delayed Until 2010

“Twilight”, “Slumdog” Lead MTV Kudos

MTV Movie Awards Ballot

Celebrities Win Madeup Webbys, Big Media Wins Some Real Ones

NBC Announces 2009/2010 Primetime Schedule

Fox Orders Second Season of Fringe

Nikki Finke On CW Upfront Rumors

Shows To Scrimp On Scribes

Networks Fume Over Nielsen Delay

TV Ads That Measure Viewer Engagement

Disney’s Bob Iger On YouTube Hulu: “New Media Isn’t Going Away” Planning Movie Subscription Service

MPAA To Teachers: Don’t Rip DVDs, Just Record Your Television With A Camcorder

Warner Music Hits Online Slump

Sirius XM’s Subscriber Drain

Polanski won’t appear in U.S Court

Endeavor Spins Recent Client Exodus