Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

July 25, 2011

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

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Showbiz Sandbox 112: Why Netflix Had To Raise Its Prices

July 18, 2011

You would have thought the world was coming to an end last week after popular movie streaming service Netflix raised its prices by 60%. The company’s customers took to blogs and social networks in revolt, threatening to cancel their subscriptions. However, between the cost of mailing DVDs and paying increased licensing fees for content, a Netflix rate hike was inevitable. Is Netflix still one of the best movie bargains available today, and if not, are there any alternatives?

Speaking of subscription offerings, one of Europe’s hottest music streaming services is finally available in the United States. Will Spotify be able to displace some of the entrenched players in the space like Spotify and Rdio? You can find out for yourself since we have some Spotify invitations to give away to a few lucky listeners.

Over in television-land the Emmy nominations were announced and as usual, there were a few noticeable omissions. Just ask “Sons of Anarchy” producer Kurt Sutter who chastised the Academy via Twitter for not recognizing the show’s star Katey Sagal (who also happens to be his wife).

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Showbiz Sandbox 108: China Becomes Hollywood’s New Best Frenemy

June 20, 2011

Hollywood movie studios have been raking in the yuan at the Chinese box office over the past year. This despite China missing the most recent World Trade Organization deadline to open its market to more foreign films. Forced to work through government sanctioned monopolies, studios have been aggressive about getting their movies in front of China’s billion plus citizens. Meanwhile, actors such as Christian Bale have headed east to star in China’s big blockbusters, such as Zhang Yimou’s Heroes of Nanking.

Maybe a film from China will be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in the near future. Of course, contenders will have to figure out the new Best Picture nomination process put forth by the Academy last week. In an effort to create an air of suspense, the number of nominees for the year’s big film prize will fluctuate between 5 and 10 entries, depending on how balloting shakes out. We’ll explain all the new rules.

It looks as if Spotify, the popular European music streaming service, may be launching in the United States as early as July. They’ll go up against well established offerings like Pandora, which went public last week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 96: Why Facebook Is Becoming Your Friendly Neighborhood Video Store

March 14, 2011

In their never ending quest to replace declining DVD revenue movie studios have begun renting movies on Facebook. Such partnerships are focused on more than just sales, or finding a Netflix competitor, they are also about marketing. As Facebook users rent and purchase movies they’ll be transformed into a social marketing army.

Mel Gibson made headlines again last week accepting a plea deal in his spousal battery case. Whether moviegoers will forgive Gibson for recent ethnic slurs and racist comments will be tested when his next film, “The Beaver”, premieres at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Meanwhile, Carlie Sheen, in between streaming his wacky behavior on the Internet, was also headed to court to file a $100 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. and sitcom producer Chuck Lorre.

Julie Taymor joined Sheen on the unemployment line. After spending nine years bringing the Broadway musical “Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark”, Taymor was replaced as the director of the expensive, beleaguered musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 93: A Film Festival Fit For An iPhone

February 21, 2011

Innovative filmmakers have taken a liking to iPhones and Flip cameras that can record HD video. They’ve begun churning out creative pieces shot entirely on the tiny devices. Ruben Kazanstev co-founded the iPhone Film Festival to promote some of this new work. He is surprised at how popular the festival has been explains how the project has taken on a life of its own.

Maybe in the future big theater chains such as AMC and Regal will wind up playing movies shot on iPhones. They are taking on the studios by forming a joint venture to acquire and distribute independent films, but is such a move legal?

Charlie Sheen continues to make headlines for his erratic behavior. Many industry watchers are questioning the decision to allow the actor to return to work on “Two And A Half Men” before he tackles his substance abuse problem.

We discuss all the top entertainment news, including this year’s Bonnaroo lineup, Borders’ bankruptcy filing and plans for a Robocop statue in Detroit. During Inside Baseball we discuss how LCD Soundsystem hopes to beat scalpers selling tickets to their upcoming farewell concerts.

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Showbiz Sandbox 91: Super Bowl Ads Suffer Their Own Recession

February 8, 2011

More than 111 million people watched this year’s Super Bowl telecast; more viewers than any broadcast in U.S. television history. That’s great news for companies that spent big money to run ads during the game. Unfortunately, most of the usually entertaining commercials were downright dreadful. Whether praiseworthy or offensive, we give you the low down on all the adverts.

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is taking the Weinstein Brothers to court, suing them for the $2.7 million in “Fahrenheit 9/11” proceeds Moore claims he’s owed. Is it safe to say the Weinstein Company won’t be releasing Moore’s next film?

Turns out nobody will be releasing the White Stripes next album. Jack and Meg White have decided to call it quits. Meanwhile theater critics were so eager to see the new “Spider-Man” musical they couldn’t wait until it opened. Based on their scathing reviews, it’s probably best if it never makes it out of previews.

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Showbiz Sandbox 90: Pick Up Artists Score At Sundance

February 1, 2011

The Sundance Film Festival was held in Park City, Utah over the past two weeks and word is that this year’s official selections were well worth the trip. Just back from the festival, Anne Thompson of IndieWire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog fills us in on all the buzzworthy films and why so many of them were picked up for distribution. Could it be the death of independent film has been greatly exaggerated?

After winning top prizes at the Director’s Guild and Screen Actor’s Guild over the weekend “The King’s Speech” has overtaken “The Social Network” as the favored Best Picture Oscar winner. More often than not Academy members follow the guild’s lead when doling out trophies in major categories, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a few surprises in store.

Netflix continues to do battle with HBO, not only over the networks own content, but also over Warner Bros. films. Meanwhile, rumors abound that Amazon may soon be joining Netflix in the video streaming business.

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