Showbiz Sandbox 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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

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?

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 221: Sundance Returns To Its Indie Roots (Again)

Celebrities, filmmakers and industry executives are in the midst of their annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Thanks to digital technology it’s never been easier to make or distribute a low budget film. This has led to a glut of indie productions looking for audiences and no way to know which are worth watching.

This year’s Sundance began the day Oscar nominations were handed out and the festival’s founder was overlooked for his critically praised performance in “All Is Lost”. (Awkward). With nine films competing for Best Picture, and guild awards not being hounded out to consistent winners, it looks as if this will be one of the closest Oscar races in recent memory.

Meanwhile, an appeals court ruling may have finally killed Net Neutrality, much to the joy of Internet service providers everywhere. This means the cost of streaming online music and video may soon rise significantly.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a Broadway bound musical adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen”, the declining appeal (and ratings) of “American Idol” and the most popular show on daytime television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 160: Shedding Some Light On High Frame Rate Cinema

In case you haven’t heard, Peter Jackson is shooting his upcoming adaptation of “The Hobbit” at 48 frames per second (fps). That’s twice the standard 24 fps most films are filmed and shown in. Digital cinema expert C.J. Flynn explains why filmmakers such as James Cameron are urging the industry to adopt high frame rates (HFR). While HFR has its benefits, Flynn highlights the many technology hurdles that need to be overcome before it becomes the norm.

DreamWorks Animation is undergoing changes of its own. The studio signed a new deal with Twentieth Century Fox to release their films after the expiration of their current agreement with Paramount Pictures.

Late-night TV also had some big news last week with ABC announcing it will move Jimmy Kimmel’s show to 11:35 pm, competing directly with Jay Leno and David Letterman. What does this mean for the late shift and more specifically, for the long running news program Nightline, which will be pushed back an hour.

Of course, we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon launching the Kindle in India, Taylor Swift proves she has staying power with her latest single, and NBC’s “The Office” comes to an end after nine seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 157: Which Summer Blockbusters Will Spawn Sequels

Though the summer movie season isn’t quite over, its never too early to start debating which of this year’s crop of releases will have studio heads clamoring for a sequel. It’s safe to say neither “John Carter” or “Battleship” will get the sequel treatment. But what about hits such as “Men In Black”, “Ice Age”, “Madacascar” and “Ted”? The Hollywood Reporter has the lowdown on what studio heads are thinking, and it’s always fun trying to second guess them.

Speaking of summer blockbusters, the Olympics continues to pull in huge viewership for broadcasters around the world. In the United Kingdom, the host nation for this year’s games, the BBC has gone interactive with its broadcasts by allowing viewers to program special channels with coverage of any event they want to see.

Meanwhile, a number of large North American cable providers held their second quarter earnings calls last week. Despite a declining subscription base and increased content costs, profits at the companies are up and their executives couldn’t be happier. We’ll tell you why.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Snoop Dogg’s reggae transformation, rumors that Nick Jonas will join “American Idol” and a new poll dethrones “Citizen Kane” and crowns a new winner as the greatest film of all time.

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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 154: Understanding Comic-Con’s Tribe Mentality

Last weekend self-professed geeks made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego for Comic-Con. There’s no better person to speak with about the world’s largest pop-culture convention than Los Angeles Times writer Geoff Boucher. His Hero Complex blog has become a must-read for those attending “the Con” and he fills us in on all the big news coming out of this year’s show.

Boucher also had a professional and somewhat personal relationship with producer Richard Zanuck who unexpectedly passed away last week at the age of 77. The executive behind such films as “The Sound of Music” and the producer of movies like “Driving Miss Daisy”, Boucher provides a unique perspective on what Zanuck was really like.

Meanwhile in the world of television, the war over carriage fees has heated up once again. This time Viacom has pulled its 26 networks from DirecTV and AMC has yanked its programming from Dish.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Bruce Springsteen’s curfew, the exodus of judges from “American Idol” and why you should see the “The Dark Knight Rises” in Imax.

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Showbiz Sandbox 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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