Showbiz Sandbox 305: Should “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Box Office Records Require An Asterisk?

December 21, 2015

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records the world over and became the biggest movie opening of all time by earning $529 million. We explain why in countries such as Japan and South Korea, the latest “Star Wars” not only didn’t win the weekend, but in some cases earned less than earlier installments of the franchise. We also look at the breakdown of which formats audiences favored when buying tickets.

George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977 and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989. We weigh in on the annual list of films added to the registry by the Library of Congress, charged with selecting new entrants. It always makes for a fascinating mix; we’ll discuss what made this year’s cut there and why. Hint: It’s not always artistry that counts… and no we’re not looking at you “Top Gun.”

In music news, it turns out online radio services such as Pandora will soon be paying more to license songs. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to prevent her fans from having to pay more to purchase tickets to see her in concert. We’ll tell you about the growing backlash against the secondary market for concert tickets and what some artists are doing about it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how “Star Wars” bumped Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie out of a historic movie theater, Howard Stern signs a new deal with SiriusXM and the list of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Showbiz Sandbox 304: The Music of 2015 Was Good, Not Great

December 14, 2015

Sal Nunziato, former co-owner of the shuttered record store NYCD, is now a musician and popular music blogger. He joins us to weigh in on his favorite albums of 2015 and unlike Rolling Stone magazine, Adele’s latest release didn’t make Sal’s list. Who better to get a state of the industry report on the music business?

The end-of-year awards season continued to kick into high gear as the Golden Globes announced their nominees. The SAG Awards may matter more however, since some of the guild’s members actually vote for the Oscars. Even after these nominations the Oscar race continues to be wide open.

With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening this week it’s impossible to avoid news about the eagerly anticipated sequel. Disney’s secrecy over the project reached new heights when the studio held its press junket without first showing the film to the media.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Melissa McCarthy’s sitcom is canceled, “Dirty Dancing” is being adapted into a television musical and Apple presses pause on its plans to offer a live streaming television service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

October 12, 2015

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 294: As Box Office Grows In China, So Do Claims of Fraud

September 14, 2015

China continues on its torrid pace toward become the number one movie market in the world having already surpassed its record $4.7 billion box office from last year. However, some Chinese distributors, and even some moviegoers, are claiming cinema owners are manipulating reported grosses on behalf of the government.

Recently a propaganda film titled “The Hundred Regiments Offensive” managed to sell more tickets than was possible based on its number of showings and theater count. Industry executives now say releases such as “Terminator:Genisys” are being unfairly robbed of their true earnings. Yet the market is so big, when “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” debuted last week it gave Tom Cruise the biggest box office opening of his career.

Meanwhile, parts of the world are entering autumn, a time when leaves fall from the trees and Broadway shows fall from the marquees to make way for new shows. We’ll tell you which shows have announced closings, which ones will follow soon and take a brief look at some new productions opening soon.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of Stephen Colbert to late night television, the new owner of National Geographic and how the late Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston will perform once again… as holograms.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

July 6, 2015

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

December 1, 2014

Digital technology helped Hollywood significantly reduce the production cost of movies that overflow with stunning visual effects. One major downside to such technological advances is how easy it has become to steal, duplicate and distribute pristine copies of digital content. Movie studios were reminded just how vulnerable they are after a cyberattack against Sony Pictures resulted in several upcoming films being leaked online.

Netflix, on the other hand, delivers digital content legally, even if some of its subscribers happen to be access the service surreptitiously from countries where the company doesn’t operate. Netflix announced it would be launching soon in two such countries; Australia and New Zealand.

On Broadway meanwhile, productions are gearing up for what is usually a busy holiday season. A few new musicals however are off to slow starts. We’ll give you a rundown on how all the shows are doing and which are worth seeing.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Russia’s proposed boycott of Hollywood movies, why Hasbro ditched Dreamworks Animation and how Apple intends to bundle Beats Music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 175: Fixing Electronic Oscar Voting In One Easy Step

December 31, 2012

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would allow electronic voting for this year’s Oscar nominations many industry insiders felt it was long overdue.  However with a median age of 62, the Academy’s membership may not be ready to cast ballots online.  Heck, some members don’t even have computers.

Now reports have emerged that the Academy’s electronic voting procedure has hit a few speed bumps.  Members have had password problems and those that were able to log into the voting system found it difficult and complicated.  Some fear that voting for the Oscars will reach an all-time low.  Yet there may be a very simple way to overcome some of the security concerns the Academy and its members have in casting online ballots.

The National Film Registry cast a vote of their own last week, adding 25 films to its archives in the Library of Congress, declaring them culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.  Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean these films will actually be preserved.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a lucrative holiday box office, big changes for “The Walking Dead” and a historical court ruling for screenwriters.

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