Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

December 23, 2013

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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

October 28, 2013

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 202: Holy Overreaction, Batman!

August 26, 2013

You would have thought the world was coming to an end last week when Warner Bros. announced the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming blockbuster which will pair the Dark Knight with Superman. Fans of the Caped Crusader weren’t the only ones to weigh in on the casting choice. Just about everyone on earth seemed to have an opinion (most of them negative) on whether Affleck should put on the Batsuit.

No matter who plays Batman, you can be sure the character will resurface in more films. After all, seven of the top ten grossing movies of the summer were sequels or remakes, helping the 2013 domestic box office stay on track with last year.

Much the moviegoers have gotten used to reboots and sequels, television audiences have grown accustom to having their cable providers blackout networks over licensing disputes just as Time Warner Cable is doing presently with CBS and its affiliated networks. Industry critics and politicians have suggested a la carte cable may help stem such actions, though we’ll explain why it may prove to be a horrible idea.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the launch of iTunes Radio, the return of “Duck Dynasty” and the death of drive in movie theaters.

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Showbiz Sandbox 201: Why CBS Is Winning The Battle (And The War) Over Cable Television

August 12, 2013

For the past two weeks Time Warner Cable has been blacking out CBS networks in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets over a retransmission dispute. Despite losing more than 3 million households ratings on CBS have remained steady giving the network no reason to back down from its demands. With the new television and football seasons set to begin in September Time Warner Cable may have no choice but to cave in to CBS’ terms.

Meanwhile, this summer’s blockbuster movies continue to underperform at the box office with Disney announcing they may have to take a $190 million write down on losses from “The Lone Ranger”. Actor Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have figured out who to blame for the movie’s failure; vengeful American film critics.

After being publicly trashed by George Clooney, activist investor Daniel Loeb was unable to convince Sony to spin-off its entertainment divisions. Even so, Loeb says he’s pleased since the company’s stock price is up and its management more accountable to shareholders.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lost film from Orson Welles, a new ending for the “Finding Nemo” sequel and the surprising new owner of The Washington Post.

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Showbiz Sandbox 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

August 5, 2013

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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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 198: One Flop Does Not A Studio Break

July 15, 2013

Though the media might like to focus on Hollywood’s failures whenever a big blockbuster tanks, the reality is most movie studios can weather a flop or two. Modern-day entertainment conglomerates include music, merchandising, consumer products and travel divisions of which the movie studio is much smaller part. Disney, for instance, made nine times as much revenue in 2012 on its television media holdings than it did with its movie studio.

Even so, without a pipeline of even modestly successful movies, an entertainment company’s entire operation can eventually suffer. That’s why even though mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is in a bit of a dry spell lately, (see “The Lone Ranger”) someone in Hollywood will always be willing to bet on his next project.

The past week also saw a seemingly endless supply of news stories concerning the health of celebrities. Placido Domingo was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, Randy Travis is in serious condition after suffering a stroke, Elton John canceled a tour after emergency surgery for appendicitis and it was all topped by the untimely death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith at age 31.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Meredith Vieira’s return to television, a Twitter storm over “Sharknado” and Joan Rivers’ dispute with the Writers Guild.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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