Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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Showbiz Sandbox 171: Cost Of Sports Could Be Cable’s Unbundling

The rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games through 2021 were recently scooped up by ESPN for a cool $5.6 billion. That’s nothing compared to the $15.2 billion the network will be paying the NFL for “Monday Night Football” over the next eight years. Now News Corp. has coughed up billions for a stake in the New York Yankees network and are on the verge of paying a rumored $6 billion for the rights to air Los Angeles Dodger baseball games for 25-years. Some cable operators are now saying the skyrocketing costs of sports programming is out of control and unrealistic.

Since we’re talking about billions of dollars, we may as well mention Sony Pictures. Thanks to films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Skyfall” the studio has taken in more than $4 billion worldwide this year at the box office. Lionsgate isn’t doing too bad either, earning $1 billion with releases such as “Hunger Games” and “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”.

In fact, the North American box office is on pace to set a new record this year, much like the grosses recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The $290 million was a new high for the four day period.

Of course, we also cover all the big entertainment headlines from the past two weeks including the ongoing sexual abuse scandal rocking Sesame Street, the death of actor Larry Hagman and NBC’s big win during the November sweeps.

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Showbiz Sandbox 170: Why Star Wars Is Better Off Without George Lucas

Two weeks ago Disney surprised everyone by purchasing Lucasfilm for a pricetag of $4 billion. Like the studio’s acquisition of Marvel in 2009, the move makes perfect sense since Disney can exploit the Star Wars franchise in films, television and theme parks. Given the quality of the prequels, it’s not hard to see why fans were relieved to hear George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars universe, will have a limited role in the sequels Disney plans on releasing.

Speaking of lucrative franchises, the latest James Bond film, “Skyfall” was released to both favorable reviews and huge grosses. The twenty-third installment of the Bond series may earn over $1 billion at the international box office. And all without 3-D ticket surcharges.

Though audiences continue to reject paying a premium for 3-D movies in theaters, consumer electronic manufacturers report that the sales of 3-D capable televisions and Blu-Ray players is on the rise. However just because a TV can play 3-D content doesn’t mean people will take advantage of the technology.

Our former host Karen Woodward joins us for a rundown of all the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks, including the huge sales figures from Taylor Swift’s new album, Mark Wahlberg signs on for the next “Transformers” film and CBS finally signs up for Hulu.

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