Showbiz Sandbox 172: The TV Industry Has Its Head Up Its Ass

Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting, realizes the ways people watch TV have radically and irrevocably changed. He believes the industry has not even remotely caught up to that fact yet. Or, as he puts it, “We have our head up our ass.” We’ll discuss the checklist Reilly provided at recent industry event which touched on every facet of the business.

As the year draws to a close the awards season has begun to heat up as both the Gotham Awards and European Film Awards were handed out last week. We’ll give you a rundown of who the big winners were and which movies are topping the first few year-end critics polls.

In theater news one can make it big with an Off-Broadway production, they just can’t make big money. A few recent hit shows are closing after barely breaking even or never turning a profit.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a list of top earning musicians, Jeff Zucker lands at CNN and why China may surpass the United States as the biggest movie market in the world.

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Showbiz Sandbox 161: Patrick Goldstein On Departing The L.A. Times And Seeing The Big Picture

Entertainment reporter Patrick Goldstein surprised everyone two weeks ago in announcing he was leaving the Los Angeles Times after 12 years. His column, The Big Picture, was a must read for anyone in or just following the industry. Goldstein joins us to discuss his departure from the Times, the state of the movie business and where we might be able to read his work in the future.

If one were to look solely at box office alone, they wouldn’t be faulted for believing the film industry was in dire straits. Though receipts were only down 3% to $4.2 billion this summer, movie attendance dropped to a 20 year low in North America.

Televised sports, on the other hand, isn’t having any trouble attracting an audience. In fact, cable networks can’t seem to pay enough for the broadcast rights to sporting events as ESPN proved by signing a multi-billion dollar deal with Major League Baseball.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bruce Willis is mad at iTunes, MTV cancels “Jersey Shore” and how you’ll be able to play, but not hear, Beck’s latest music.

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

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 153: Hollywood Loses Another Battle In The Copyright War

Fearing that it would restrict freedom of speech, basic civil rights and an open Internet, the European Parliament voted down the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) last week. The move effectively kills the international anti-piracy legislation that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have lobbied so hard for. We explain what ACTA’s defeat means for Hollywood and what anti-piracy measures you may be hearing about next.

It’s hard to believe piracy is affecting the entertainment industry. Music sales, which have been in a slow decline over the past decade, are actually up this year thanks to digital sales. Movie box office is also up with studios such as Disney having already earned $1 billion in North America alone.

Billion was also a number subscription movie service Netflix has been using a lot lately. Their customers watched more than a billion hours of content in June. That’s not only a new record for the company, but it would make them more popular than any U.S. cable network.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, Charlie Sheen’s slipping ratings and why we won’t be seeing “Raging Bull 2” anytime soon.

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Showbiz Sandbox 152: Rupert Murdoch Shows Off His Split Personality

Last week, in-between sending Twitter posts about the break-up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, News Crop. chairman Rupert Murdoch announced he would be splitting one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates into two different companies; one for the publishing entities, the other for the much more profitable film and television operations. Could the tycoon be trying to focus attention on something other than the ongoing phone hacking scandal he is embroiled in?

Speaking of scandals, Charlie Sheen returned to television with a bang (no pun intended). His new series, “Anger Management” set viewership records for a scripted comedy series. If the first 10 episodes prove to be a ratings hit, FX has promised to produce another 90 episodes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 professionals to become members and it looks like they’re becoming more of an equal opportunity group. In fact, they have finally included hair dressers in the makeup category at the Oscars, renaming it Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news, the “Today” show’s continuing troubles, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night television and the record breaking ratings for Eurocup 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 124: UltraViolet Is A Solution In Search Of A Problem

More than 75 companies have teamed up to form UltraViolet, a new service that promises to give consumers the freedom to watch movies and television shows wherever and whenever they want. However, early adopters have discovered that untethering content from physical media such as DVDs can be a tedious and confusing process. As the entertainment industry experiments with rapidly evolving technologies, viewers seem hard pressed to find any benefits in moving to the cloud.

When it comes to music though, fans have already migrated to online services such as Pandora, iTunes and Amazon. Now Google is preparing to launch its own music offering which is rumored to allow users to share music with their friends and family.

And if you thought digital technology was a tough racket, so is trying to copy the success of the hit television series “Mad Men”. NBC failed with it’s 1960s drama “The Playboy Club” and ABC isn’t fairing much better with “Pan Am”, a similar knock-off. They could have picked up Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom, “Anger Management” as a replacement, but FX scooped it up before anyone had a chance.

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Showbiz Sandbox 120: Netflix Must Adapt To A Hollywood It Helped Create

Ryan Lawler has spent the last two years writing about online video and digital media trends for GigaOm, a beat he’s covered for a number of publications. Who better to help us sort out what’s been going on with Netflix over the past two weeks? Despite a plunging stock price, slower subscriber growth and increased competition from the likes of Dish Network, Lawler says we shouldn’t be too worried about Netflix. He discusses what the future holds for the company during an in-depth interview.

Meanwhile, the fall television season was jumpstarted by “Two and a Half Men” as more than 28 million viewers tuned in to see Ashton Kutcher replace Charlie Sheen. Don’t feel too bad for Sheen though; he had 6.4 million people watching him get roasted over on Comedy Central and it appears he’s settling his lawsuit with Warner Bros. for a cool $25 million.

“The Lion King 3D” continues to dominate the worldwide box office, despite the fact that it’s a 17 year old movie that most have already seen. “Titanic” and “Top Gun” are already getting 3D makeovers, and it’s likely we’ll see studios reaching back into their archives to find even more titles.

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

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 110: “Transformers” Proves Mediocrity Makes Money

When “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” hit theaters over the Fourth of July holiday weekend fans of the franchise were relieved to discover it wasn’t nearly as bad ad the second film. That seems to be a fairly common response to Michael Bay’s latest critic-proof popcorn blockbuster. The highly anticipated movie made nearly $400 million at the worldwide box office in its first week explaining why studios love such formulaic dreck and all but ensuring another sequel.

Last week also saw the sale of MySpace. The once dominant social network Internet site which was once valued at $12 billion was sold by News Corp. at a loss for a mere $35 million. What may be more surprising than anyone actually wanting to buy MySpace is that pop star Justin Timberlake has been tapped to help turn the company’s fortunes around by focusing on music.

Speaking of music, NPR tried to figure out how much it costs to make a hit pop song by examining the finances behind Rihanna’s recent single “Man Down”. Apparently all it takes is $1.1 million in production and promotions costs and 12 minutes to right the lyrics.

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

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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