Showbiz Sandbox 348: Hollywood Studios Get Serious About Shortening Theatrical Windows

December 19, 2016

Studios have been itching to shorten the theatrical release window for their movies since the moment they learned how much money they could make on home video. Of course, cinema owners aren’t too keen on the idea and refuse to book films that can be viewed at home less than three months after they hit theaters. With reports that Apple is talking to Hollywood in hopes of getting early access to movies for iTunes, have the stakes been raised?

Oscar season is heating up as the guilds begin weighing in. First up was the Screen Actors Guild who announced the nominees for their annual awards helping confirm a few front runners. When it comes to foreign language features, the Academy narrowed the list of eligible contenders down to nine, leaving out a few of this year’s favorites.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced a selection of 25 titles to enter the National Film Registry including silent films starring Buster Keaton, “The Princess Bride”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Rushmore”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive shakeup at Warner Bros. Pictures, Julia Roberts comes to television and Amazon goes global with its video streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 341: AT&T Deal For Time Warner Makes Vertical Integration Trendy Again

October 24, 2016

Last weekend, in a sudden and unexpected deal, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to buy the media conglomerate Time Warner for $85 billion. As its current offerings become more commoditized AT&T is looking to add content to its portfolio through picking up Time Warner, a company that counts among its assets networks such as HBO and CNN, not to mention Warner Bros. Pictures. However, this marriage is far from certain will surely come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.

As awards season gets underway, studios have begun releasing some of their high profile title in hopes of going after Oscar glory. Historically, that meant opening arty films in a limited number of cinemas before going wide after gaining word of mouth. We explain why that’s happening less often these days.

Meanwhile, the Wanda Group is inviting all of Hollywood, and frankly anyone producing film and TV, to its new movie studios in Qingdao, China. They are offering a 40% incentive in hopes of luring productions to the multi-billion dollar facilities, but will anyone take them up on it?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bob Dylan might not be interested in commenting on his recent Nobel Prize award, why the “Deadpool” sequel lost its director and Garth Brooks signs an exclusive deal to stream his music on Amazon’s new service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 340: Bob Dylan Is A Poet and We Didn’t Know It

October 18, 2016

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week there were cries of joy and jeers of contempt over the decision. Music Journalist Sal Nunziato joins us to ponder whether Dylan’s work is in fact literature. He explains why, out of all the musicians that could have received such an award, it had to be Dylan.

Nunziato explains who out of this year’s 19 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should actually get in. Will Kraftwerk finally make the cut? Joan Baez seems like a no-brainer and nobody would be shocked if Pearl Jam makes it through on their first attempt, but what about bands like Depeche Mode and hip-hop stars such as Tupac Shakur?

Meanwhile, there’s never been more ways to listen to music thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Now Amazon has entered the world of music streaming and hopes that soon every song request begins with the word “Alexa.”

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an expansion of the latest Harry Potter franchise, Billy Bush reaches a settlement to depart “Today” and Netflix gives comedian Chris Rock a huge payday.

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Showbiz Sandbox 335: FCC Has Big Plans For Television Set-Top Boxes

September 12, 2016

In a widely expected move, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, laid out a regulatory plan that would allow consumers to use the set-top box of their choice to access television. Naturally, pay television providers weren’t happy since they earn $20 billion annually by forcing their customers to rent such equipment. They claim Wheeler’s mandate is overreaching and his call for universal streaming app adoption could stifle innovation.

The September box office has kicked off the run up to the holiday moviegoing season in fine form. While ticket sales for the month are slightly higher than last year in the United States, it is international markets that continue to outperform. In fact, some films do so much better in China than in North America, that industry pundits wonder whether certain sequels should be China-centric and simply skip a U.S. release.

We’ll be back next week with our regular show that will cover all the news making headlines around the entertainment world.

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Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

May 2, 2016

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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Showbiz Sandbox 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

April 25, 2016

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 291: Media Companies Come Clean On Cord Cutting

August 24, 2015

After years of denying cord cutting was happening on any level, several large media companies are finally confessing that cord cutting is a growing trend which may soon affect their bottom lines. After decades of steady growth, cable operators are now beginning to see flat or declining subscriber numbers as new content streaming services pop-up.

Clearly, the business models the television industry has relied on in the past are evolving rapidly, more so than movies or theater or even publishing at the moment. Yet some industry insiders believe the cable cord isn’t being cut, but that it’s slowly fraying as the definition of what it means to be a television network has changed.

Some media companies aren’t waiting to study market indicators before making strategic moves. Last week NBCUniversal made a $200-million investment in the online news outlet Buzzfeed, leaving many to wonder how this could possibly benefit the network.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how boy band One Direction wants to take a break, why Spotify wants to breach your privacy and Cirque du Soleil is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 280: French Films Win Big In Cannes This Year

May 26, 2015

The 68th annual Cannes Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend with the French drama “Dheepan” winning the Palme d’Or. In a festival filled with artistic works commenting on modern social issues, director Jacques Audiard’s film tells the story of three Sri Lankan refugees who form a family-of-convenience while fleeing to France in hopes of a better life.

Anne Thompson, Editor-at-Large for Indiewire, joins us to discuss the highs and lows of this year’s Festival de Cannes, which include many of the films that took home awards, not to mention a 3D porno. But as Thompson explains, many of the big buzzworthy films were Hollywood titles screened out-of-competition; “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Inside Out” come to mind.

Time Warner Cable meanwhile, fresh from having broken up with their previous suitor, Comcast, may now be acquired in a $56.7 billion deal. Though this move was widely expected, it is an indicator of how the market is attempting to stay ahead of the fast changing ways by which audiences consume television content.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the David Letterman’s signs off the “Late Show” one final time, Jennifer Lopez is taking up residency in Las Vegas for a string of shows next year, and multi-hyphenate Barbra Streisand is penning her memoirs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

April 27, 2015

When theater owners and film distributors from around the world convened last week for CinemaCon in Las Vegas they were presented with a slate of upcoming blockbusters and cutting edge innovations which forecast an optimistic future for the industry. After ending last year with the most depressed box office returns in recent memory, 2015 is shaping up to break all records with at least four films potentially grossing more than a billion dollars.

Adding to the optimistic outlook are emerging technologies that enhance the experience of going to the cinema. Upgrades such as immersive sound, laser projection and high dynamic range may help lure certain demographics back to theaters. Teenagers and young adults, for instance, have seen declining attendance since 2007 as the number of on-demand entertainment options began expanding.

Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast called off its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after government agencies informed the company they would actively work to block the merger. Regulators believed the deal, which many feared but felt would ultimately be approved, might allow Comcast to dominate not just cable television, but more importantly high speed Internet access.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of “Sabado Gigante”, how WikiLeaks got involved in the Sony cyberattack and Netflix just keeps growing.

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