Showbiz Sandbox 314: As Expected, The Oscars Shine A Spotlight On Diversity

In a year when the Academy Awards were faulted for a lack of diversity among its nominees, ceremony host Chris Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head on in his opening monologue by mixing pointed criticism with biting humor. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, brings us along as she attends the 88th annual Oscars and explains just how difficult it was to predict this year’s winners.

Mind you, award season never really ends. France handed out their own awards for last year’s top movies and we’ll tell you who won all the big prizes at the Cesars. We even look at the nominations for the Olivier Awards, the London theater equivalent to the Tonys. Literally hours after winning his first Oscar, Mark Rylance was nominated again, this time for his performance in “Farinelli and the King”.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is planning to imitate its online rival Amazon by, oddly enough, opening new brick and mortar stores. And a reissue of the Alex Haley bestseller Roots brings up everything from copyright to the question of when a book goes out of print to ebook pricing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix and other streaming services have decimated video sales, PBS will launch its own cable network and Adele tops the Brit Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 313: Is Kanye West Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

Kanye West is making headlines for exhibiting manic behavior around the upcoming release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Is it erratic behavior or a canny promotional tactic? And is West’s album actually finished, or are the many changes he’s making before its official release all part of an intentional, yet public, artistic process.

In more serious news, music heavyweights are beginning to speak out about the court battle between artist Kesha and music producer Dr. Luke. The musician is attempting to break free of a record contract which ties her to a man Kesha says “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her for years.

Meanwhile, we’re going to look at a worldwide box office phenomenon that has set records in the United States and around the world. Not “Deadpool”, but rather China’s “The Mermaid,” which had the highest per screen average of any movie in North America this past week.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new owner of movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon’s plans to distribute Woody Allen’s next movie and new rules for the Eurovision song contest.

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Showbiz Sandbox 312: Scripting Those Perfect Grammy Moments

With nominees representing a wide range of genres including pop, country, hip-hop, R&B and rock, this year’s Grammy Awards had a little something for everyone. David Wild, one of the writers responsible for this year’s Grammy telecast and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to discuss Rihanna’s no-show, Kendrick Lamar’s electric performance and more.

It would seem that anyone who wasn’t watching the Grammys was at the movie theater watching “Deadpool”. The R-rated superhero movie that transformed from a comeback vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to a box office hit to a phenomenon, all in the space of five days.

Meanwhile China was also breaking box office records thanks to the Golden Week holiday associated with Chinese New Years. Plus, the Oscars are getting closer and we’ll report on the latest buzz generated by the BAFTAs and the WGA Awards.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an autobiography from rocker Bruce Springsteen, Disney is sending “Frozen” to Broadway and why media stocks have suddenly taken a nosedive.

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

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 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

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Showbiz Sandbox 67: Cheap Digital Music Downloads Are On (Arcade) Fire

The indie rock group Arcade Fire topped the album charts for the first time in their career with the release of their third album “The Suburbs” which moved more than 156,000 copies in its first week. However more than 97,000 of those albums were sold digitally at significantly reduced prices. Are digital music downloads devaluing music? Todd Martens, a music reporter with the Los Angeles Times, joins us to explain how digital downloads are affecting the music industry.

Speaking of digital media, Netflix entered into a $900 million deal with Epix which will allow them to stream films from Paramount, MGM and Lionsgate starting in September. Meanwhile the popular television streaming website Hulu is rumored to be investigating an IPO.

Sylvester Stallone may have shown up just in time to save Lions Gate with “The Expendables” which came in first at the box office, but “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” proved a disappointment despite earning rave reviews.

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