Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 299: The Gender Pay Gap Lands A Starring Role In Hollywood

Hollywood’s gender pay gap is once again a hot topic of discussion thanks to a frank essay on the subject by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. We are joined by Karen Woodward, an entertainment industry social media consultant, who suggests that the crass and angry tone the actress took in her piece helped gain attention for the issue and start a conversation on how to fix the problem.

We’ll hear what Lawrence had to say about being paid less than her male co-stars, specifically how she’s no longer concerned with being “liked” or finding a kinder, gentler way to express her opinion. Now at least one of her frequent co-stars has plans to take up the cause with what could be a very effective strategy.

Meanwhile, with the number of major record labels having already declined to three from what was once six, it appears the industry’s contraction may soon affect music publishing with Sony/ATV looking for a new owner. Could one of the world’s largest music publishers soon merge with a competitor?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Playboy magazine is getting rid of its centerfold, how “The Walking Dead” went global in a big way and Netflix earnings and subscriber growth disappoint Wall Street.

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Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

Two of the world’s most prominent film festivals are held each September in Telluride and Toronto and, without fail, you’ll find Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, dashing off to both of them. Thompson gives us a feel for what both festivals were like this year, which films created the most awards buzz and which she thinks audiences should be looking forward to.

Thompson also joins us to discuss this year’s Emmy winners. The premium cable network HBO proved it is still at the top of its game, fending off the stiff competition of hot new shows being produced by upstart streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network wept away the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Limited Series categories, winning 14 awards in all.

Meanwhile, in case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must take into account the possibility of fair use before sending a takedown notice. Rather than force possible infringers to mount what is known as an affirmative defense, the court is placing the burden on copyright holders to consider whether a work should be considered fair use.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new over-the-top and mobile streaming services being offered by the BBC and Epix, one of the creators of Batman will finally get the credit he has long deserved (though maybe not the money) and Denzel Washington will produce ten August Wilson plays for HBO.

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Showbiz Sandbox 294: As Box Office Grows In China, So Do Claims of Fraud

China continues on its torrid pace toward become the number one movie market in the world having already surpassed its record $4.7 billion box office from last year. However, some Chinese distributors, and even some moviegoers, are claiming cinema owners are manipulating reported grosses on behalf of the government.

Recently a propaganda film titled “The Hundred Regiments Offensive” managed to sell more tickets than was possible based on its number of showings and theater count. Industry executives now say releases such as “Terminator:Genisys” are being unfairly robbed of their true earnings. Yet the market is so big, when “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” debuted last week it gave Tom Cruise the biggest box office opening of his career.

Meanwhile, parts of the world are entering autumn, a time when leaves fall from the trees and Broadway shows fall from the marquees to make way for new shows. We’ll tell you which shows have announced closings, which ones will follow soon and take a brief look at some new productions opening soon.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of Stephen Colbert to late night television, the new owner of National Geographic and how the late Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston will perform once again… as holograms.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited over 300 new members to join their ranks this year, many noted not only the number of young women and minorities among the group, but also 36 international invitees. According to Oscars pundit Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter, that’s the highest number of new international members than at any other time in the Academy’s 88-year history.

We explain why the organization is looking to filmmakers and craftspeople from around the world when adding to their ranks, as well as how that might change the demographics of the Academy moving forward. At a time when international box office has never been more dominant and important, it is nice to see the Academy’s membership become a little more diverse.

E-commerce giant Amazon is also making a few changes, especially in the way it pays authors of titles in its monthly book rental offering. Instead of paying writers for every book a user starts but may not finish, the company will pay based upon how many actual pages a subscriber reads.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why NBC and Univision fired Donald Trump, Harry Potter heads to London’s West End and Apple signs a deal with indie record labels for its new music streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 77: It’s Official – Hollywood To Make Nothing But Sequels

With the seventh installment of the Saw franchise and Paranormal Activity 2 topping this week’s box office, it’s not hard to see why Hollywood studios have been greenlighting sequels and prequels. They range from high profile titles such as “The Hobbit” and “Avatar”, to questionable projects such as “Top Gun 2”. Don’t even get us started on the prequel to Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”.

If big budget Hollywood movies aren’t your thing, you could always stay home and watch television, provided the broadcast networks don’t get into a carriage dispute with your cable provider and black out their signal. Fox did just that to Cablevision subscribers recently and we’ll explain why. Meanwhile, Conan O’Brien prepares for his new late night talk show with a Rolling Stone interview.

During Big Deal or Big Whoop we provide analysis of the week’s top entertainment headlines, including Charlie Sheen’s latest trouble, a new hit for AMC and a film based on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Our Inside Baseball discussion focuses on why consumers prefer to rent digital movies rather than purchase them.

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Showbiz Sandbox 58: Celebrities Take Over Broadway

The Tony Awards were held on Sunday evening honoring the year’s best Broadway productions and performances. Brian Scott Lipton the editor-in-chief of TheaterMania.com was there and he stops by to fill us in on all the big winners, memorable moments and why so many movie stars are currently working in theater.

The 11th Annual Golden Trailer Awards also took place this past week and Stephen Garrett of Kinetic Trailers won two big prizes. He joins us to discuss the current state of movie promos and what its like to win the award for Trashiest Trailer.

At the box office “The Karate Kid” knocked “Shrek Forever After” out of first place after three weeks and provided a little hope for this summer’s poor ticket sales. “The A Team” on the other hand opened to poor reviews and even worse box office receipts.

In television news, the final ratings for this past season’s television shows have been released. We’ll fill you in on which shows finished on top as well as the ones nobody cared to watch. You’ll never guess where “The Jay Leno Show” came in (hint: it’s not in the top 100).

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