Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

December 1, 2014

Digital technology helped Hollywood significantly reduce the production cost of movies that overflow with stunning visual effects. One major downside to such technological advances is how easy it has become to steal, duplicate and distribute pristine copies of digital content. Movie studios were reminded just how vulnerable they are after a cyberattack against Sony Pictures resulted in several upcoming films being leaked online.

Netflix, on the other hand, delivers digital content legally, even if some of its subscribers happen to be access the service surreptitiously from countries where the company doesn’t operate. Netflix announced it would be launching soon in two such countries; Australia and New Zealand.

On Broadway meanwhile, productions are gearing up for what is usually a busy holiday season. A few new musicals however are off to slow starts. We’ll give you a rundown on how all the shows are doing and which are worth seeing.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Russia’s proposed boycott of Hollywood movies, why Hasbro ditched Dreamworks Animation and how Apple intends to bundle Beats Music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 240: Nikki Finke Is Back! And This Time It’s Personal

June 16, 2014

An infamous entertainment industry journalist who causes Hollywood executives to break into cold sweats is back on the interwebs. Nikki Finke, the founder and former editor of Deadline Hollywood whom the New York Times once dubbed “a digital-age Walter Winchell”, launched her new website last week. Using her trademark brash and personal writing style, Finke admits she is ready to spill some show business blood.

Amazon appears to be just as aggressive as Finke when negotiating with their suppliers. First the online retailer started making it difficult to purchase books from the publisher Hachette. Now they’re taking the same approach with Warner Bros. movies as they come to a new agreement with the studio. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers we’ll all be buying more of our media on digital platforms rather than physical ones anyway.

The platform the Metropolitan Opera cares most about is the stage. However New York’s opera company is weathering some tough negotiations of its own as it tries to balance big salaries with a shrinking endowment. A recent tax filing has revealed the Met’s inner financial workings, including some of the hefty salaries it pays to employees and performers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Matt Lauer extends his contract at NBC, Bjork gets selected by the Museum of Modern Art and actor Harrison Ford takes that “break a leg” saying to a whole new level on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 230: It’s Curtains For Celluloid at CinemaCon

March 31, 2014

Every spring movie theater operators from around the world converge on Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. During the week-long convention cinema owners are bombarded with industry facts, attendance figures, educational seminars and endless footage from upcoming releases. Over the years advances in digital projection have become an increasingly important topic at the show.

It’s no secret that cinemas have been slowly converting their facilities from traditional 35mm projection to digital. There was no better indication that the days of celluloid film prints are definitely over than the number of vendors at CinemaCon demonstrating the next generation of digital technology, including immersive sound and laser projectors.

When it comes to live theater, there is no doubt that New York’s Broadway and London’s West End are the leaders of the pack. Our own Michael Giltz reviews his previous predictions and investment advice by recapping the past year’s biggest money making productions, as well as a few financial losers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the fall of “Duck Dynasty”, a decline in paid cable subscribers and Oprah Winfrey’s plans for a national tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

January 6, 2014

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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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 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 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

March 4, 2013

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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