Showbiz Sandbox 331: Apparently Warner Bros. Needs to Start Making Donuts

In a scathing open letter published last week, an alleged ex-Warner Bros. employee took the studio and its chairman Kevin Tsujihara to task for a number of recent missteps. The author mocks studio brass for doubling down on the talent delivering critical duds such as “Batman v Superman” and their inability to make a hit movie, despite somehow managing to keep their jobs.

Though the veracity of the letter is questionable, it caused ripples in Hollywood not because it revealed a trove of inside secrets, but more due to the fact that it publicly stated what so many have been whispering about Warner Bros. lately; a lack of leadership and a confused executive team have led to a year of mixed results.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Rio Olympics, along with three or four billion viewers around the world. Despite audience figures that are down from the London games in numerous territories, the Summer Olympics is arguably still a ratings juggernaut hard to compete against, giving networks broadcasting the event a serious advantage.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how a Netflix documentary helped overturn a murder conviction, why Thomas Gibson got fired from “Criminal Minds” and Comedy Central cancels “The Nightly Show”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 328: Pokémon Finally Brings Augmented Reality to Life

After endless hype everyone is finally getting a chance to experience virtual reality and augmented reality in the best way possible; by playing a game. Pokémon Go was an instant hit when it launched recently for mobile phones. It’s literally and figuratively a game-changer and the first of what’s sure to be many new products making clever use of AR.

Meanwhile, for the first time in years, the Chinese box office is not just slowing down, it’s shrinking. Hollywood movies are dominating the market but that hasn’t stopped the Chinese government from loosening the reins to let in more Hollywood movies just to sell more tickets.

In fact, the deal limiting the number of imported films into China to 34 per year ends in 2017. As Hollywood goes back to the negotiating table with the Chinese government, they will not only be pushing to get more movies into the country, but also a bigger piece of the box office, which is presently limited to 25%, though is often less.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why season seven of “Game of Thrones” is going to be delayed, how music streaming services have surpassed 55 million paid subscribers and the three leads of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton” have taken their final bow.

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Showbiz Sandbox 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

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 306: Deconstructing the 2015 Movie Box Office

Few, if any, can rival Paul Dergarabedian when it comes to analyzing the film industry’s global box office. Rentrak’s senior media analyst has been running movie numbers for upwards of 20 years now and is a regularly quoted box office pundit. Dergarabedian joins us to discuss how 2015 turned into a record breaking year at the box office all over the world.

We cover everything from how the winners at last year’s box office left little for the losers to the increasing role social media plays in the fortunes of any given movie, from the importance of international grosses to the record shattering “Star Wars” sequel. One big question is how 2016 could ever top last year’s figures or if that even matters.

We wind up in the music business where lawsuits are always a good indication on the issues affecting the industry. Two big new lawsuits target Spotify and Ticketmaster. We’ll explain what they are all about… and predict if they will actually make it to trial.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why The Beatles agreed to put their music on streaming services, how Taylor Swift’s concert tour topped the charts last year and the sexual assault charge against Bill Cosby.

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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 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 267: VOD Helps Heat Up Sundance

Distributors went on a buying spree at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only due to the quality of the movies, but also because of new-found revenue from VOD services. We give you a rundown of the titles that were acquired, how much was spent on them and whether there is any hope they will ever make that money back for distributors.

Speaking of money, musician Sly Stone could be $5 million richer after winning a court ruling last week against his former manager who he claims withheld royalties.

Singer Sam Smith, on the other hand, won’t be trying to cheat Tom Petty out of royalties for his song, “Stay With Me”. The artist agreed the song was similar to one of Petty’s past hits and added the legendary rocker to the writing credits.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including yet another Super Bowl television ratings record, when we can expect the next “Game of Thrones” book from author George R.R. Martin, and “Empire” is becoming a much needed hit series for Fox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Thanks to mobile devices, laptops, streaming video, DVRs and good old fashioned live viewing, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite television shows. However this explosion of viewing options has made it harder to keep track of how many people view each show, precisely when and on what device. Despite the difficulty of getting accurate figures networks still feel the need to report overnight ratings even if they don’t reflect a program’s total viewership.

We propose taking a new approach to television ratings that might fix this problem. For starters stop making a distinction between broadcast and cable networks. Same goes for differentiating ratings based on a show’s specific time slot or which day it airs on. And those are just a few of the suggestions we debate.

Another complicated issue the entertainment industry is grappling with is net neutrality. The FCC is reportedly weighing a “hybrid” solution to open Internet legislation which would classify entities as either wholesale or retail providers. Granted, there is no clear cut way to make such categorizations and consumers could wind up getting stuck with higher broadband fees, but why quibble over details?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams may be headed to court to defend their hit song “Blurred Lines”, movie theaters ban the use of wearable devices like Google Glass and Taylor Swift once again dominates album sales.

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