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 272: Why The TV Industry Is Fighting Over Your Viewing Habits

March 9, 2015

Time-shifting content consumption has grown astronomically over the past several years thanks to technology like streaming and DVRs. Nearly half of all TV viewers no longer watch shows when they are first aired, upending the traditional ratings system used to measure audiences. Networks now want advertisers to pay for all the viewers of a program up to a week after its original telecast.

Presently, advertisers only pay for viewers of a show during the first three days after its broadcast, a timeframe the don’t wish to extend. Complicating the matter is a dramatic increase in the number of shows airing during primetime, fracturing audiences and forcing ad execs to sift through 1,700 programs in which commercials can be placed.

Buying ad time during the Academy Awards ceremony is usually a no-brainer for marketing moguls, however the Oscars telecast has become so predictably dull that it’s audience has begun to shrink. In an effort to boost ratings, the Academy’s Board of Governors is now hinting they may revert back to having only five Best Picture nominees, rather than the potential of ten. We debate why this is not such a good idea.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the high profile court battle over the authoriship of a hit song, NBC goes over-the-top and Bruce Willis heads to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 261: Sony Hack Gives New Meaning To The Term Box Office Bomb

December 16, 2014

As if Sony Pictures didn’t have enough to worry about with all their corporate emails and documents being leaked by hackers, now the perpetrators of the cybercrime have threatened movie theaters showing “The Interview” with terrorist attacks. What started out as a voyeuristic peek at the inner workings of a Hollywood studio has turned into a far more serious international incident. This has left the media questioning their own ethics and culpability for originally publishing portions of Sony’s stolen data.

With Sony’s dilemma getting so much attention, the announcement of this year’s Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations seemed rather subdued and tame by comparison. Maybe that’s because an awards season front runner has yet to emerge, or possibly because everyone is just tired of award shows.

Thanks to a listener email, we also discuss why the difference between screens and theaters matters when tallying up box office. The two words are often improperly used interchangeably.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s final show, the latest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year’s lack of platinum albums.

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Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

September 1, 2014

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 246: The Emmys Have A Hopeless Scheduling Problem

August 26, 2014

It’s bad enough that the Emmy Awards honor the exact same talent and television shows every year. Now, the Emmys are really growing stale by handing out prizes to shows that finished airing before last year’s ceremony. Unfortunately, as television migrates to year round programming, there is no good time to schedule the Emmys which would make them feel more timely or relevant.

The industry-at-large was likely glad to see at least one aspect of the Emmys go unchanged as shows from broadcast and cable networks continue to win the most awards over shows from streaming services such as Netflix, which went home empty handed. There also, thankfully, seems to be a voter backlash against shows positioning themselves in odd categories.

Meanwhile, August has proven to be the cruelest month for show business with the untimely death of actor Robin Williams and the passing of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, among others.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon public relations battle with Hachette over e-book pricing, Jimmy Fallon comes out on top in the late night television war, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat may see new life on the big screen.

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Showbiz Sandbox 232: Coachella Goes Over The Top, Figuratively and Literally

April 14, 2014

In its 15 year history the Coachella has grown from a two day event with a couple dozen bands to one of the world’s most important music festivals with so many VIP luxury amenities that some have argued the high-priced perks have begun overshadowing the actual music. At the same time, Coachella organizers have made it easier than ever for stay-at-home-fans to catch their favorite artists by streaming the whole first weekend live on YouTube.

Speaking of VIP entertainment experiences, there is a brewing battle over premium large format screens at multiplexes all over the world. You might know these types of auditoriums as IMAX, though not for long if your local cinema chain has anything to say about it.

Since it’s tax time here in the United States we uncover a few stories about how movie, television and theatre productions are not only skipping out on their taxes, but in fact getting huge subsidies courtesy of the tax man in most states.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Stephen Colbert’s move to replace David Letterman, the motion picture Academy’s new high profile curator and James Cameron’s complaints about the latest blockbuster movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 231: Could Vince Vaughn Be The Next David Letterman?

April 7, 2014

Late night talk show personality David Letterman surprised everyone last week by announcing that he would be retiring as host of the “Late Show” in 2015. News that Letterman would be exiting on his own terms after 30 years as a late night headliner broke in a thoroughly modern way; first via Twitter, then through the media’s career retrospectives and ultimately with stories about who would make a good replacement. We nominate Vince Vaughn.

In other television news, Time Warner Cable is in a bitter dispute with satellite provider DirecTV. The two companies are butting heads over the broadcast rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games TWC paid more than $8 billion for last year. With negotiations seemingly stalled, more than 30% of the market’s paid television subscribers have been blacked out of each game’s telecast.

Meanwhile, this year’s Broadway season is about to kick off in earnest on the run up to the Tony Awards. Our own Michael Giltz gives us a complete rundown on which productions he’s putting his own figurative money on.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a trademark dispute over Mickey Mouse, a new contract for the Writers Guild of America and the continuing struggles of Entertainment Weekly.

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Showbiz Sandbox 224: How Leno’s Departure Will Affect Late Night and Los Angeles

February 10, 2014

When Jay Leno signed off as host of “The Tonight Show” last week he left late night television and the city of Los Angeles in different states than when he first began the job 22-years earlier. Scott Collins, TV reporter for the Los Angeles Times, discusses the legacy Leno leaves behind in a late night landscape that now includes two dozen shows, along with what “The Tonight Show’s” move to New York City means for L.A. production jobs.

If you weren’t one of the more than 14 million viewers tuning in to Leno’s last late night stints, then maybe you’re watching the Winter Olympics. Networks such as NBC in the United States are making it easier to stream the Olympic Games online… sort of. The catch is that you must already be a subscriber to cable or satellite television services.

Meanwhile the Berlin Film Festival is currently taking place in Germany though the person making most of the headlines at the event is an actor who claims to no longer be famous. Can you guess who it is? (Hint: It’s Shia Labeouf).

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including singer Clay Aiken’s run for seat in Congress, Fox puts an end to the “X Factor” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers get called out for miming their Super Bowl halftime performance.

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Showbiz Sandbox 208: Why Studios Are Reshuffling Their Executive Ranks

October 7, 2013

Movie moguls have always faced unreliable job security, though never more so than over the last two years. Beginning in early 2012 five of the six major Hollywood movie studios have fired their top executives and reshuffled existing management. We discuss what’s causing the studio shakeup and it it will affect the movies we see in years to come.

Soon enough unemployed studio big shots may be able to find work in South Korea’s film industry. With a wave of fresh homegrown talent and exciting new stories finding their way into theaters, the country’s box office has skyrocketed making it one of the world’s strongest movie markets.

When it comes to box office on Broadway, it’s become a tradition for productions to boast when they’ve broken even. This also means we can do some quick math to conclude how much it costs to keep a show up and running on a weekly basis, a figure that many productions don’t always like to share.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s new late night contract, New York City Opera files for bankruptcy and a jury decides a concert promoter is not liable for the death of Michael Jackson.

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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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