Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

Not even two weeks into 2015 and the annual slog known as awards season has commenced in earnest. This year’s festivities were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend which pull double duty by honoring the best of both movies and television. We wonder if it might make more sense to hold two different ceremonies throughout the year; one for movies and one for television.

The BAFTA nominations were also announced last year, though there was very little British about them, as has traditionally been the case. Guild nominations have also started pouring in as well, though what everyone wants to know is how all of this will affect the upcoming Oscar race.

Meanwhile, some established artists in the movie and music industries have started to offer their latest work directly to fans. By some accounts these experiments have proven incredibly successful and profitable, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell since sales figures for such efforts are often hard to come by.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including John Travolta’s return to television, why actress Charlize Theron requested a pay raise on her next film and an update on the Sony cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 243: United They Stand – SAG-AFTRA Forges Ground-Breaking Contract

Two years after merging their unions, and with their current contracts set to expire within hours, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with studios and producers for a new three-year contract. Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and contributing editor at the Hollywood Reporter, discusses the proposed deal and what improvements actors managed to secure.

Music sales, on the other hand, aren’t improving at all. Nielsen reports that album and digital download sales for the first half of 2014 are down significantly. Could the increase in on demand music streaming be the cause?

Movies aren’t faring much better so far this year, at least not in North America and Germany where box office is down 12% and 8% respectively. Is something amiss with this summer’s blockbuster releases, or is setting new earnings records every year simply unrealistic?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how the characters from “Frozen” are crossing over to television, why cable set-top boxes gobble up so much energy and The Who plan on saying a long, slow goodbye during yet another one of their farewell tours.

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Showbiz Sandbox 131: Broadway Flops Find New Life On The Road

Even the worst Broadway flops can wind up turning a profit once they begin touring in cities throughout the world. Patrick Healy, the theater news and features reporter for the New York Times, explains how sometimes it doesn’t matter if you make it big on the Great White Way, provided you’re a hit in Buffalo. He also provides a glimpse at what we might see at this year’s Tony awards.

Speaking of awards, the Director’s Guild, Writer’s Guild and Producer’s Guild announced their nominations for end-of-year accolades, helping to further define which films might be in the running for this year’s Oscars. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a front runner for Best Picture.

Music sales were up in 2011 for the first time since 2004. As expected, the sale of digital albums rose significantly as CD’s and other physical copies continued to decline.

Of course, we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Van Halen’s reunion tour, new trouble for Netflix and the resignation of Disney’s marketing head.

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Showbiz Sandbox 119: Thompson On Toronto and Telluride

The Toronto International Film Festival has become a mandatory stop for studios opening awards contenders in the fall. The last four best picture winners at the Academy Awards, including The King’s Speech, all played in Toronto. Along with the smaller, cozier Telluride Film Festival, Toronto is where some films first start picking up awards buzz. Anne Thompson, editor of IndieWire’s Thompson on Hollywood, just returned from both festivals and provides a few details to those of us who weren’t lucky enough to go.

The Emmy Awards were held on Sunday evening and once again “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” won top honors. Though many of the award winners were predictable, there were still a few surprises, such as Melissa McCarthy from the sitcom “Mike & Molly” walking off with lead actress in a comedy. The Emmy telecast itself however was a bit of a “train wreck”.

Netflix continued to top headlines this past week after their stock price plunged 19 percent upon lowering their subscriber projections. Apparently their higher prices have scared off potential customers and caused a few to abandon the video rental service. Now Netflix has announced they will split their business in two, renaming the DVD-by-mail service Qwikster.

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Showbiz Sandbox 87: The Oscars Have A Mommy Complex

It seems as if this year’s supporting actress awards are being overrun by a handful of horrible mothers. “The Fighter” and “Animal Kingdom” feature just the kind of evil matriarchs Oscar voters have reward in the past. Stephen Farber of the Daily Beast and Hollywood Reporter discusses the evolution of flawed movie mommies from “Mildred Pierce” to “Precious”.

Ben Fritz of the Los Angeles Times tells us that Hollywood studios are hoping to make selling films online a bit easier and explains how Academy members may soon be able to download awards screeners from iTunes .

Last week during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas it seemed as if television manufacturers were on the defensive over the lackluster sales of 3D televisions. The music industry isn’t fairing much better as Nielsen reported album sales Fell 12.8% in 2010 and digital downloads were flat.

Of course we also review the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new film version of Gypsy starring Barbara Streisand, the return of “Jersey Shore”, Quentin Tarantino’s flawed top 20 list and Broadway’s record setting box office.

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Showbiz Sandbox 83: The Social Network Tops Critics Year-End Picks

Even the latest “Chronicles of Narnia” film can’t steal the spotlight from “The Social Network”. David Fincher’s little Facebook movie is the toast of critics groups throughout the country with most selecting it as the year’s best film. “Blue Valentine” may be getting overlooked when it comes to top awards, but the MPAA decided to downgrade the film’s NC-17 rating to a more marketable R.

Spotify, Europe’s leading online music service, still hasn’t launched in the United States thanks to licensing disputes with the record labels. We’ll just have to be satisfied with watching music videos on YouTube where artists like Rhianna, Eminem and Justin Bieber rake in millions from advertising.

Disney and ABC aren’t relying on YouTube to make money online with their television shows. Instead, they struck a lucrative licensing deal with Netflix who will stream the shows to to paying subscribers.

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Showbiz Sandbox 22: The Trouble With Indie Films, Roman Polanski and Hollywood Guilds

When the Toronto Film Festival concluded last week only one of its official selections had been picked up for distribution. This touched off a string of articles and blog posts from the likes of Anne Thompson and Roger Ebert on the state of the independent film industry. One of the more interesting blog posts came from indie producer Ted Hope who has produced over 60 films in a career which spans three decades. He joins us on this week’s episode with independent film producer Christine Vachon.

Hope has worked with such filmmaker as Ang Lee, Michel Gondry, Hal Hartly, Todd Solondz, Ed Burns, Todd Field and Tamara Jenkins while producing films like “In The Bedroom”, “The Ice Storm”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “The Brother’s McMullen”, “American Splendor”, “21 Grams”, “Happiness” and “The Savages”. His production company This Is That has produced more than 17 films since it was founded in 2002.

Vachon has also produced an astounding number of indie films, including Todd Haynes’ “Poison” and “Far From Heaven”, Larry Clark’s “Kids”, John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, Todd Solondz’s “Storytelling” and Kimberly Pierce’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. Along with Pamela Koffler, Vachon has been running the production company Killer Films for the 14 years.  Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 22: The Trouble With Indie Films, Roman Polanski and Hollywood Guilds

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