Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 312: Scripting Those Perfect Grammy Moments

February 16, 2016

With nominees representing a wide range of genres including pop, country, hip-hop, R&B and rock, this year’s Grammy Awards had a little something for everyone. David Wild, one of the writers responsible for this year’s Grammy telecast and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to discuss Rihanna’s no-show, Kendrick Lamar’s electric performance and more.

It would seem that anyone who wasn’t watching the Grammys was at the movie theater watching “Deadpool”. The R-rated superhero movie that transformed from a comeback vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to a box office hit to a phenomenon, all in the space of five days.

Meanwhile China was also breaking box office records thanks to the Golden Week holiday associated with Chinese New Years. Plus, the Oscars are getting closer and we’ll report on the latest buzz generated by the BAFTAs and the WGA Awards.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an autobiography from rocker Bruce Springsteen, Disney is sending “Frozen” to Broadway and why media stocks have suddenly taken a nosedive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

September 1, 2014

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 223: The 2013 Worldwide Box Office – Who Won, Who Lost and Why

February 3, 2014

Thanks to surging theatrical grosses in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia, the international box office more than doubled North American earnings in 2013, topping out at a record $25 billion. Though Hollywood studio content continues to dominate globally, receipts for local productions are beginning to play a more significant role in many markets. We provide a breakdown of the annual box office for of all the major territories and explain why some fared better than others.

Speaking of breaking records, the telecast of this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had an audience of 112 million viewers. That makes it the most watched television show in U.S. history. As is often the case, the commercials proved more interesting than the game.

Last week the industry also mourned the tragic death of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from what appears to be a drug overdose. Unfortunately, obit writers were also kept busy with the passing of folk musician Pete Seeger, studio executive Tom Sherak and legendary animator Arthur Rankin Jr.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including an Oscar nomination for Best Song gets rescinded, “Back to the Future” is being turned into a Broadway musical and Disney plans to reboot Chip ‘n Dale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 174: Is “The Hobbit” A Death Knell for 3D Movies?

December 17, 2012

All of the talk surrounding the release of “The Hobbit” was over high frame rate and whether audiences would reject a crisper image. It may have been more appropriate to discuss whether audiences have already shunned 3D. Only 49% of audiences chose to see the film in 3D over opening weekend. If moviegoers aren’t willing to see a film shot and meant to be seen in 3D, is the format ultimately doomed?

“The Hobbit” was noticeably absent on a number of important year-end top film lists. Nor was it among the nominations for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which were announced last week.

The fantasy book from “The Hobbit” is adapted has been a perennial best seller, but with the explosion of e-book readers future generations may not even know what a book is. Can e-books and print co-exist?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including this year’s Rock Hall of Fame inductees, the top grossing concert tours of 2012 and (finally!) an end to loud television commercials.

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Showbiz Sandbox 173: Spoiler Alert! Your Movie Has A Kicker

December 10, 2012

Frustrated at not knowing if the movie he was watching would have any special scenes during or after the credits Chris Ramey did something about it. Ramey is the founder of What’s After The Credits? a website that details kickers, as they are often called, to popular movies, television shows and video games. He tells how what inspired him to create the site and how its grown in popularity.

Speaking of popular, “Skyfall” is not only the most successful James Bond film of all time, it has also become the highest grossing movie of all time for Sony Pictures and the United Kingdom. Yet despite positive reviews, the film hasn’t been appearing in any of the recent year end critic polls.

Grammy nominations were announced last week and with acts like the Black Keys racking up five nominations, including Album of the Year, they had a rock and roll vibe. It is nice to see the Grammys include a lot of fresh faces in some of their top categories and refrain from knee-jerk nominations for veteran performers. We’ll provide a rundown of the nominations.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the expansion of iTunes to 56 new countries, Netflix signs an exclusive content deal with Disney and how much Psy is making off of his hit song “Gangnam Style”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 154: Understanding Comic-Con’s Tribe Mentality

July 17, 2012

Last weekend self-professed geeks made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic-Con. There’s no better person to speak with about the world’s largest pop-culture convention than Los Angeles Times writer Geoff Boucher. His Hero Complex blog has become a must-read for those attending “the Con” and he fills us in on all the big news coming out of this year’s show.

Boucher also had a professional and somewhat personal relationship with producer Richard Zanuck who unexpectedly passed away last week at the age of 77. The executive behind such films as “The Sound of Music” and the producer of movies like “Driving Miss Daisy”, Boucher provides a unique perspective on what Zanuck was really like.

Meanwhile in the world of television, the war over carriage fees has heated up once again. This time Viacom has pulled its 26 networks from DirecTV and AMC has yanked its programming from Dish.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Bruce Springsteen’s curfew, the exodus of judges from “American Idol” and why you should see the “The Dark Knight Rises” in Imax.

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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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Showbiz Sandbox 136: Crafting A Story For The Grammys Through Triumph and Tragedy

February 13, 2012

Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Geoff Boucher was on assignment at the Grammy Awards when he heard about the the sudden death of pop star Whitney Houston over the weekend. While still covering music’s biggest night, Boucher was given two hours to write Houston’s obituary for the Sunday paper.

At the same time, David Wild was backstage at the Grammys putting the finishing touches on his script for the telecast. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and best-selling author, Wild had less than 24-hours to work with Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and revise the awards in the wake of Houston’s passing.

After an exhausting weekend Boucher and Wild join us to discuss how this year’s Grammys focused on two voices; one looking to the future with Adele winning six awards and one honoring the past by mourning the fresh tragedy of Houston’s death.

A whopping 40 million people watched this year’s Grammys telecast, though if we were to believe Nielsen few of them were under the age of 24. Brian Stelter of the New York Times stops by to explain why young people are watching television less often.

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