Showbiz Sandbox 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

March 14, 2016

In recent years, Chinese-owned companies have become the film industry’s biggest power players by scooping up production companies and cinema chains. The latest example came when AMC Theatres, owned by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, announced it will acquire Carmike Cinemas to become the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese are so hot on the cinema business given that their box office surpassed that of North America during the month of February for the second time ever. Yet if you were to ask some financial analysts, Hollywood Hollywood is starting to look like the video game industry before it imploded; bigger budgets, fewer winners and more losers. Is Hollywood about to shrivel up like Pac-Man?

Then there are those like Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Facebook, who are trying to convince Hollywood that it’s time to start making big movies available in consumer’s homes the same day they hit theaters. Is there any business model in which that could actually work?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the authors nominated for this year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, music sales in France plummet and Kevin Spacey won’t be heading up Relativity Media after all.

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Showbiz Sandbox 311: Oscar Season Remains Uncharacteristically Unpredictable

February 8, 2016

The movie awards season remains as confusing as ever, with the Directors Guild handing out its top honor to “The Revenant”. Will this have any impact on an Oscar race in which “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” also look like major contenders? No one knows but we’ll try and sort it out.

Meanwhile, it appears Time Warner wants to join Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal as an owner of the streaming service Hulu. There’s only one catch; they’d like Hulu to stop showing all episodes from the current season of a TV series. Maybe they want to buy it so they can shut it down.

Over at Viacom, Sumner Redstone stepped down last week after a court mandated the 92-year-old would submit to a medical exam to determine his competency. Bowing to reality, Redstone resigned from his position as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Leslie Moonves is officially taking over CBS, but after daughter Shari Redstone publicly announced it wasn’t a good idea for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to take over, he did just that.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon plans to enter the retail space, ESPN plans to enter China and Matt LeBlanc is named as the new host of the popular automotive TV program, “Top Gear”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 308: Hollywood Thinks It Has Netflix’s Numbers

January 18, 2016

With Netflix now available in 190 countries, the upstart video-on-demand service has grown so big Hollywood studios and television networks are getting seriously worried. Sure, they’ve earned millions by licensing their content to Netflix, but they now find themselves competing with the company for new projects, not to mention the industry’s most sought after talent.

TV networks are especially upset Netflix can claim to be a success without ever revealing their ratings. Some have even gone so far as to commission studies to determine the true viewership of Netflix programming. Meanwhile, Netflix has become concerned about viewers bypassing geographic restrictions by subscribing to their U.S. service from international territories.

When it came to this year’s Academy Awards nominations however, Netflix was overlooked in all of the major categories. So were minorities. For the second year in a row all of the acting nominations and those for best director went to caucasians, giving rise to a repeat of the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including NBC’s plans to produce a live version of the musical “Hairspray”, Al Jazeera America is being shut down and the death of actor Alan Rickman.

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Showbiz Sandbox 302: The Long Slow Death of Overnight Television Ratings

November 30, 2015

Taking a cue from cable networks like AMC and USA, Fox recently became the first major network to abandon the practice of touting overnight television ratings numbers. The move simply confirms the growing realization within the industry of a sea change in viewing habits that is having a massive impact on when shows are watched, what shows are produced and how they get promoted.

The publishing industry is undergoing its own set of struggles. New reports on book sales paint a dire picture for the ebook format and mid-size publishers. We’ll go over the numbers and explain what they actually mean.

Speaking of numbers, Adele’s new album “25” broke sales records selling 3.38 million copies in its first week, accounting for 67% of all record sales in Billboard’s Top 200. While you can hear songs from the album on the radio or purchase it via digital download and even on compact disc, Adele is not allowing you to stream it on services such as Spotify or Apple Music

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how French television series were big winners at the International Emmy Awards, why only one of this season’s new TV shows have been cancelled and Sony’s decision to stop manufacturing Betamax tapes.

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Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

November 3, 2015

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

September 28, 2015

It is said numbers don’t lie, however in the entertainment business they don’t always tell the truth either. When it comes to box office grosses, television ratings, home video earnings and book sales, numbers can often present misleading or incomplete information which paint an unrealistic, or at times purposefully skewed, financial picture.

Netflix, for instance, released data detailing what they claim is the episode when their customers get hooked on a television series. However, the “hook study” performed by the subscription video streaming service was limited in scope and may simply be an example of how good Netflix is at spinning its numbers into great PR opportunities.

Meanwhile, like every other area of the entertainment industry, the book world has been rocked by the digital revolution. But publishers believe the business is leveling out based on sales figures which leave out large segments of the market. None of this explains why e-books cost more than paperbacks though.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amy Schumer’s big book advance, a lawsuit over the movie “Goodfellas”, which Warner Bros. says was a huge flop, and the Harry Potter origin story will become a two part theatrical production on London’s West End.

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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 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

June 22, 2015

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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