Showbiz Sandbox 346: Critics Are Mixed Up About This Year’s Best Movies

December 5, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end movie critics have begun announcing their picks for the year’s noteworthy releases. As in recent years, critics groups from New York to Los Angeles differ slightly on what the top movie should be. The New York critics group went with the musical “La La Land”, while The L.A. group chose the drama “Moonlight”. To really confuse things the National Board of Review selected “Manchester by the Sea”. What this breadth of selections means is there were plenty of great films to see this year.

Where you see these movies, on the other hand, continues to be a debate, at least for the heads of movie studios. Kevin Tsujihara, the head of Warner Bros., made it known his company would like to release films into the home market soon after their release in movie theaters. He says the studio is having “constructive conversations” with a few cinema operators to make this a reality, but what that really means is anybody’s guess.

There seems to be no confusion however over whether TV networks want to attend the winter press gathering of the Television Critics Association; they don’t. These annual events allow networks to promote new shows while giving journalists a chance to grill the creatives and executive behind them. It looks as if many networks are skipping out on this January’s press tour as the top executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declining their invites.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including DirecTV’s plans to go over the top, Netflix allows users to download movies for offline viewing and the Bee Gees get a new record deal.

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Showbiz Sandbox 344: Did the Media Bungle The 2016 Election?

November 14, 2016

We don’t cover politics on Showbiz Sandbox per se, however we do provide analysis and commentary on the worldwide media and entertainment industries. Thus, we discuss the role, and some might say the culpability, of the news media in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. While there is no doubt some divisiveness over the election of president-elect Donald Trump, there seems to be unanimous consensus that mainstream media blew it… bigly.

We also take a look at the impact the results of this year’s presidential election will have on the entertainment business. Deals currently in the works may have a tougher time getting approved, and decisions that passed years ago may be in danger of being overturned.

China meanwhile has passed a new film industry law intended to crack down on box office fraud and promote “core socialist values”. It weaves a new layer of protectionism into the business by requiring that two thirds of the country’s movie screens be reserved for Chinese films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the why IMDb is going to court over its right to post actors ages, Universal Pictures makes some changes at DreamWorks Animation and Robert Redford’s retirement plans.

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Showbiz Sandbox 343: Teamsters Play a Big Role on Broadway

November 7, 2016

The theater world is presently embroiled in major contractual battles over pay, benefits and credits. The last group you’d ever think would be leading the charge is the Teamsters, who represent a large number of theater, television and film workers, including casting directors. Turns out, if you want to produce entertainment in the United States, you probably have to deal with the Teamsters.

Those working off-Broadway however, are represented by the Actors Equity Association and they are negotiating with the League of Off Broadway Theaters and Producers. Actors are pushing for a historic pay increase claiming their weekly minimum has never kept pace with inflation, let alone the cost of living in the major metropolitan cities where live theater is produced.

Meanwhile the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-DirecTV and other pay television providers for colluding in their refusal to carry SportsNet LA, a channel owned by Time Warner Cable. This comes in the wake of AT&T’s bid to acquire the media company Time Warner, which some fear might consolidate to much media power in too few hands.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the noteworthy ratings for this year’s World Series, who was named producers of next year’s Oscar ceremony and a “The Simpsons” is set up to make television history.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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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 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 336: Telluride and Toronto Reaffirm the Importance of Film Festivals

September 20, 2016

With an ever increasing number of high profile movies competing for awards at the end of each year, film festivals such as those in Telluride and Toronto have never been more important in helping promote a release. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from both festivals and gives us a complete rundown of all the films creating the most buzz.

And just as the number of movies worth seeing has grown, so too has the number of television shows. There’s so much good TV these days that in fact, the Emmys are more and more like the Academy Awards, where viewers haven’t even seen most of the Best Picture nominees. Maybe that’s why the Emmys keep honoring the same old shows year-after-year.

Meanwhile, the number of books on offer has grown at least 21% recently thanks to self-publishing. That includes both e-books and print. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has been responsible for thousands of titles, enough to make them the unofficial fifth largest publisher in North America.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Argentina is sending school-aged children to the movies, how the Rio Olympics proved profitable for NBC after all and the Lady Gaga is booked for the Super Bowl half time show.

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Showbiz Sandbox 334: Music Streaming Wars Heat Up Over Exclusive Releases

September 6, 2016

The competition between Apple Music and Spotify for subscribers has been cutthroat over the past year. Now comes word that Spotify may be retaliating against artists working with Apple. We’ll take a look at how exclusive new releases have raised the stakes in the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy.

We also explain why it’s time everyone stopped discussing how abysmal North American summer box office was. After all, 2016 box office and attendance is actually up over the previous year, which had record earnings.

And in what might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, China is questioning whether Universal’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation breaks its antitrust regulation.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Jackie Chan will be awarded an honorary Oscar, Frank Ocean makes history by topping the Billboard charts with a self-released album and Baz Lurmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is being turned into a musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 333: Predicting The Biggest Box Office Flops of 2016

August 31, 2016

Much has been made about the decline in box office this summer, with franchise sequels underperforming and certain pricey movies failing to attract an audience. Kevin Lincoln, a senior editor at New York Magazine and Vulture, takes a look at this summer’s biggest flops and predicts which mega-budget releases might suffer a similar fate as we round out the year.

In China it might be more difficult to know which movies are box office disappointments or crowd favorites since online and mobile ticketing companies have been offering hefty subsidies to cinemagoers in their heated battle for market share. This means the gross of any release is almost always higher than what moviegoers actually paid to see it.

We’ll also dip back into audience figures from the recently completed Summer Olympics in Rio. This time however we have some data about viewership in Europe, Canada and elsewhere. To nobody’s surprise, more people streamed coverage online than ever before.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix international subscribers will soon outnumber those in the United States, a changing of the guard at Twentieth Century Fox gets expedited and the late Prince’s home and music studio is set to become a museum.

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