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 269: When Journalists Make Headlines Instead of Report Them

Last week a number of respected journalists who have won praise after decades of reporting the news actually wound up in the headlines themselves. First Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended for six month by the network when allegations arose that he exaggerated his experiences while reporting on the Iraq War. Then, esteemed New York Times media columnist David Carr suddenly died after collapsing in the newsroom leading to an outpouring of condolences.

Ironically, overshadowing both of these events was an announcement from Jon Stewart, a self-professed “fake journalist” that he would be leaving “The Daily Show” after 17 years as it’s host. Such news must have executives at Comedy Central reeling, since it comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert’s departure from the network.

On the other hand, Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to stay at Sony, however will be loaned to Disney for appearances in Marvel’s multi-character movies. The studio also plans to once again reboot the Spider-Man franchise by recasting the role.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the huge opening weekend for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Netflix heads to Cuba and the latest awards season winners.

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

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 266: Sundance Becomes A Little More International

Though the Sundance Film Festival has long been one of the more important festivals held each year, it was primarily known as a launching pad for American independent films and as such international attendance was minimal. That seems to have changed over the past few years as Sundance selections started receiving Oscar nominations. Now industry professionals from all over the world show up at the festival to find the next “Whiplash”, “Precious” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

We didn’t have to travel from halfway around the world to attend this year’s Sundance, but we are in Park City and will fill you in on all the buzzworthy films, major acquisitions and festival news.

Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild Awards muddied the waters in the current race for the Best Picture Academy Award. While everyone assumed “Boyhood” would walk off with the prize on its way to Oscar victory, “Birdman” swept in and unexpectedly stole it. Whether this is any indication as to how Oscar voters will cast their ballots is questionable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is headed to court over his record contract, how James Patterson is promoting his new book and Mrs. Doubtfire is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

Not even two weeks into 2015 and the annual slog known as awards season has commenced in earnest. This year’s festivities were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend which pull double duty by honoring the best of both movies and television. We wonder if it might make more sense to hold two different ceremonies throughout the year; one for movies and one for television.

The BAFTA nominations were also announced last year, though there was very little British about them, as has traditionally been the case. Guild nominations have also started pouring in as well, though what everyone wants to know is how all of this will affect the upcoming Oscar race.

Meanwhile, some established artists in the movie and music industries have started to offer their latest work directly to fans. By some accounts these experiments have proven incredibly successful and profitable, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell since sales figures for such efforts are often hard to come by.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including John Travolta’s return to television, why actress Charlize Theron requested a pay raise on her next film and an update on the Sony cyber attack.

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

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.

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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 241: YouTube Gets Tough With Indie Record Labels

As YouTube gets set to launch its own streaming music service the company is updating existing partnership contacts with record companies. While all of the major labels have signed on, some independent labels are balking at what they consider unfair terms. Now, YouTube is threatening to block the content of any label refusing to enter into its new licensing contracts, a move that is proving hugely controversial and divisive throughout the tech and entertainment industries.

Speaking of contracts, when it came to negotiating the deal for his latest film “Boyhood”, director Richard Linklater gave up a large part of his usual salary to assure he would actually own a piece of the movie it took him 12 years to complete. Will more filmmakers decide to forfeit their upfront fees and begin taking ownership stakes in their projects, or is Linklater’s move a one-off?

Musician Jack White probably isn’t setting any trends either, at least not for vinyl records. His new album sold 40,000 on vinyl during its first week of release though that can probably be attributed to all the nifty extras White included on the vinyl version such as hidden tracks and alternate versions rather than any ongoing interest in the analogue medium.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “Sesame Street” is getting shorter, Netflix plans on producing a talk show with Chelsea Handler and Disney nails down another director for its “Star Wars” franchise.

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