Showbiz Sandbox 275: TV Casting Isn’t Just Black and White

Thanks to the success of new shows like “How To Get Away With Murder”, “Black-ish”, “Fresh Off The Boat”, “Jane the Virgin” and, of course, “Empire”, Deadline Hollywood reports this year’s pilot season is experiencing an explosion of minority casting. Networks are now writing roles specifically for ethnic actors and demanding series pilots feature a diverse cast. Though long overdue, the suggestion that the “pendulum might have swung a bit too far in the opposite direction” ruffled a few industry feathers.

In less controversial news, the Library of Congress announced the 25 recordings it will be adding to the National Recording Registry this year. Among them are classics by The Doors and Radiohead, Broadway cast albums and hits by The Righteous Brothers and Johnny Mercer. There are even a few historical wax cylinder recordings dating all the way back to the 1890s.

And just when you thought the awards season was long over, the New York Independent Film Critics held their annual meeting to select the IRA Film Awards. Our host Michael Giltz was on hand to argue, discuss and vote for the best in movies from last year with a prestigious group that believes they have better taste than all those other awards shows. We’ll go over the list of winners.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including who will replace Jon Stewart as host of “The Daily Show”, the popular television series “Downton Abbey” calls it quits as does Zayn Malik, a now former-member of One Direction.

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Showbiz Sandbox 211: Why Movie Studios Are Playing Musical Chairs With Release Dates

There was a time if a Hollywood studio pushed back the release date for one of its eagerly anticipated titles it signaled the movie might be in trouble. If there was ever a sign that such stigmas no longer apply when delaying a release date, one need look no further than this year. An overly crowded and competitive awards season has meant the release dates for a number of high-end hopefuls have been wisely pushed into 2014, including “Monuments Men”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Distributors in China, Japan and South Korea may soon have to start worrying about release dates too. Box office is surging to record levels in Asia, thanks not to Hollywood blockbusters, but rather homegrown productions.

If it were up to consumer electronics manufacturers, we’d all be watching movies at home on our new 4K Ultra HD televisions. Broadcasters, burned by the original conversion to HD and a string of 3D experiments, want to know who is going to foot the bill this time around.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new, yet familiar, writers taking on the “Star Wars” sequels, YouTube gets into the music streaming business and Netflix wants to make original movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 194: Tony Awards Prove Broadway Knows How To Put On A Show

Once again actor Neil Patrick Harris proved he knows how to host an awards show with a dazzling turn as master of ceremonies at this year’s Tony Awards last Sunday. The ceremony provided its share of surprises and dramatic speeches from the likes of Cicely Tyson and pop-star Cyndi Lauper as “Kinky Boots” walked off with six Tonys including Best Musical. Though the telecast may have been poorly directed, it was filled with a mixed bag of performances from this season’s top Broadway shows.

For Broadway play or musical, a Tony can provide a huge boost at the box office, though it’s no guarantee. There has never been a magic formula for investing in the arts which is something JP Morgan and its partners should have looked into before loaning Paramount Pictures a load of cash to finance movies. Now everyone is suing each other after the bank discovered their Hollywood investments weren’t as risk free as they had initially thought.

That kind of inside news is usually reported by the likes of Nikki Finke over at her Deadline Hollywood blog. However, if a scoop from a competing online news source is correct, Finke’s days at Deadline may be numbered. Has Finke’s conentious reputation finally caught up with her, or will a crosstown rival need to eat some crow?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon’s European tax problems, Disney’s digital distribution plans, and the possibly illegal limitations of Microsoft’s new Xbox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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Showbiz Sandbox 155: How Hollywood Handles A Real-Life Tragedy

The ripple effect caused by a deranged gunman last week at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” spread far beyond the scene of the crime in Aurora, Colorado. Warner Bros. had to instantly pivot from celebrating the studios biggest opening of the year to managing a horrific nightmare which left 12 people dead and dozens injured. We examine how the studio and the entertainment industry have dealt with being part of such a tragic event.

On a happier note, at least for cable networks, the Emmy nominations were announced last week for the year’s best achievements in television. The major broadcast networks, which used to dominate the awards, were entirely shut-out in certain categories. Is this merely a fluke, or has the tide truly shifted to cable programming?

Meanwhile, author Brett Easton Ellis has been in a public feud with Deadline Hollywood editor Nikki Finke, all thanks to a simple posting on Twitter. We’ll fill you in.

We also cover all the week’s top entertainment headlines including some sequels to popular Pixar films, an executive shake-up at News Corp. and the newest judge on “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 118: Mr. Television Rates This Year’s New Shows

There’s a good reason Marc Berman is known as Mr. Television. As the man behind MediaWeek’s daily television newsletter The Programming Insider his commentary on the medium reached more than 50,000 readers per day. Berman recently launched TV Media Insights, a new online destination for television and media with its own newsletter, forum and podcast. Berman handicaps this year’s Emmy Awards and also tells us which new shows are worth watching in the upcoming season.

We also continue our discussion on the publishing industry, which due to the dramatic changes in how they do business, is becoming one of the more fascinating parts of the entertainment industry. As e-book sales increase, popular authors are beginning to announce plans to release new work directly to readers and Amazon plans on creating a Netflix fof books.

Meanwhile, a The Hollywood Reporter served a cease and desist order on Deadline.com which sparked a war of words between the two trade outlets. Is the Reporter in financial trouble, and if so, should Deadline staff be spreading the word to potential advertisers?

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Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

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 47: Movie Ticket Prices Get Super Sized

Another 3D film took the top spot at the box office this past weekend – “How To Train Your Dragon”. It knocked the 3D “Alice In Wonderland” out of first place after three weeks. As well, in order to play the film in 3D, theater owners were forced to take screens away from “Avatar” which caused it to fall out of the top 10 for the first time since its release last December.

Though 3D films seem to be all the rage these days a question remains over how much audiences are willing to pay to see them. This past week several theater chains raised their prices for 3D and 3D Imax tickets, some as much as 26%. Lauren Schuker of the Wall Street Journal drops by to fill us in on why movie ticket prices are rising and how it might affect this year’s record breaking box office returns.

Speaking of box office returns, thanks to the Cantor Exchange you will soon be able to place a wager on how much money you think a movie will make during its first four weeks in release. Though not if the MPAA has anything to say about it. Unfortunately, you won’t have the movie review program “At The Movies” to help your handicapping efforts. The show that launched the careers of film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert was canceled. Have no fear, Ebert has plans to launch a brand new show.  Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 47: Movie Ticket Prices Get Super Sized

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