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 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 253: Nielsen Is Rating TV Shows By The (Wrong) Numbers

October 14, 2014

The method by which television ratings are collected and tabulated has long been criticized as imperfect. Now Nielsen, the research firm which provides the ratings, admitted this past week it had been reporting inaccurate audience figures to broadcast networks for the past seven months. Turns out viewership of this year’s season premieres was lower than originally thought. We’ll try and explain what the heck is going on here?

Comedian Adam Sandler is back in the news, though this time it’s for a movie which isn’t being made… even by Netflix. And just as she hits her stride as an action star, actress Scarlett Johansson (temporarily) gives up movies to appear in a television mini-series.

Even the world of live theater is a bit bizarre lately, at least according to composer Stephen Sondheim who is working on a new musical based on two surreal movies by the late Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. If that’s not crazy enough, the biggest box office winner on Broadway this fall has been “The Lion King”, a musical that has been running for 17 years.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Katy Perry books a trip to the Super Bowl, e-book software that spies on you and the fifth season of “The Walking Dead” premieres to record numbers… or so we’ve been told.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

July 29, 2014

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 199: Comic-Con and Hollywood Is A Match Made In Nerdvana

July 22, 2013

Hollywood movie studios are no stranger to Comic-Con, the world largest pop-culture convention attracting 140,000 fans to San Diego each summer. For years they have showed up with new titles hoping to drum up pre-release buzz, though at times such calculated marketing moves have backfired in spectacular fashion. Even so, Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher says audiences always welcome Hollywood back to the Con with open arms.

Boucher gives us an inside look at this year’s event, filling us in on which movies, television shows and events were huge hits (or misses) with fans. Did the announcement of a film pairing of Superman and Batman go over well with the crowd? Was everyone surprised to see a trailer for the “Veronica Mars” movie.

Last week also saw the Television Academy announce their nominations for this year’s Emmy Awards. The big news was the Netflix series “House of Cards” which earned 14 nominations and marked the first time a show will vie for an Emmy without having aired on broadcast or cable networks.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a public spat over Spotify streaming royalty rates, Keith Olbermann’s return to ESPN and a summer of big box office flops.

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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 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

July 25, 2011

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 81: Kanye West Spins His Own Hype

November 30, 2010

The week of Thanksgiving is usually slow when it comes to entertainment news, but not this year. There was a horse race at the box office as Disney’s 50th animated feature nearly toppled the seventh Harry Potter film at the box office. “Tangled” received positive reviews and earned an impressive $69 million over the four day holiday weekend.

Also bowing last week was Kanye West’s fifth studio album which is being hailed by critics as a masterpiece. But even before critics had weighed in West had jumped on popular social networking platforms to promote the release and his image. A story in the Los Angeles Times claims the hip-hop star has become a master at creating and controlling his own hype. If that’s the case, then why does West have such a terrible reputation as a troublemaker?

Also trying to promote themselves via social media was Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. The furry blue “cookie enthusiast” is campaigning to host “Saturday Night Live” starting with a video on YouTube. Don’t laugh too hard though, since “SNL” seems to be where the Oscars are scouting for hosts. Just ask two former SNL guests James Franco and Anne Hathaway who will be co-hosting the 83rd Academy Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 64: Buzzing About Comic-Con, Digital Comics and E-Books

July 26, 2010

Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times, Alex Billington of First Showing and Anne Thompson of indieWIRE all attended the 41st annual Comic-Con. They stop by to fill us in on all the the movies and television shows that managed to generate a lot of buzz (as well as a few that fizzled). We recap the pop-culture convention’s highlights and breaking news items.

Of course, before Comic-Con invited movies and television shows to the party, it used to be about buying and selling comic books. However, as Alex Pham of the Los Angeles Times informs us, physical comic books may be an endangered item thanks to the growing popularity of digital comics. These newfangled comics have animation, sound effects and narration. Pham also explains how e-books are changing the future of how and what we read.

E-books were the source of major controversy in the publishing world this past week. Literary agent Andrew Wylie announced he would bypass traditional publishing firms and form his own digital publishing company to release e-book versions of his client’s work, including out of print work from the likes of John Updike and and Philip Roth. Rachel Deahl, senior news editor at Publishers Weekly, tells us why this move was so controversial within the publishing industry.

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Showbiz Sandbox 13: Hooliganism At Comic-Con (Or Lack Thereof)

July 28, 2009

We had a plethora of panelists this week, all of whom were in San Diego over the weekend to experience Comic-Con first hand. KPBS’ Cinema Junkie blogger Beth Accomando covered the event for National Public Radio, Todd Gilchrist was there for Cinematical, SciFi Wire‘s news editor Patrick Lee made the trip, as did Phillip Nakov from MovieSet.com and Harry Medved, who helped out with Fandango’s coverage of the event as their director of public relations.  Also joining in on this week’s fun is New York Daily News writer and Huffington Post blogger, Michael Giltz.

If you weren’t one of the 126,000 people attending Comic-Con, this episode will fill you in on what you missed.  There was whole day devoted to 3D movies, which apparently isn’t just a gimmick anymore.  The big hits of Comic-Con were “District 9”, “Avatar”, “Kick Ass” and “Iron Man 2” and the biggest miss was Roland Emerich’s next movie “2012” which is either so bad it’s good, or so bad it’s just plain bad.  Irrelevant whether it wowed people at the convention or not was “Twilight: New Moon”, because fans just wanted to see Robert Pattinson .  Hundreds of young girls, their moms and a bunch of sensitive men camped out overnight to get into a jam packed “Twilight” panel. The festival was “the redemption of “New Moon” director Chris Weitz, who was clearly adored by his cast. It was definitely the panel with the most security.

This year marked the first appearance by Tim Burton (as a presenter), Peter Jackson and Terry Gilliam. Johnny Depp stopped by to say two words (literally) in promotion of Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.”  Read more

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