Showbiz Sandbox 343: Teamsters Play a Big Role on Broadway

November 7, 2016

The theater world is presently embroiled in major contractual battles over pay, benefits and credits. The last group you’d ever think would be leading the charge is the Teamsters, who represent a large number of theater, television and film workers, including casting directors. Turns out, if you want to produce entertainment in the United States, you probably have to deal with the Teamsters.

Those working off-Broadway however, are represented by the Actors Equity Association and they are negotiating with the League of Off Broadway Theaters and Producers. Actors are pushing for a historic pay increase claiming their weekly minimum has never kept pace with inflation, let alone the cost of living in the major metropolitan cities where live theater is produced.

Meanwhile the Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T-DirecTV and other pay television providers for colluding in their refusal to carry SportsNet LA, a channel owned by Time Warner Cable. This comes in the wake of AT&T’s bid to acquire the media company Time Warner, which some fear might consolidate to much media power in too few hands.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the noteworthy ratings for this year’s World Series, who was named producers of next year’s Oscar ceremony and a “The Simpsons” is set up to make television history.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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

July 27, 2015

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

May 19, 2014

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

April 14, 2014

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?

April 7, 2014

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)

January 20, 2014

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

August 27, 2012

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

August 6, 2012

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

July 24, 2012

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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