Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

March 2, 2015

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

May 19, 2014

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 210: Record Labels Look To YouTube As The New Radio

October 21, 2013

Instead of promoting new releases through traditional avenues such as radio and television, record labels are beginning to rely on YouTube as the most effective method for reaching younger audiences. As Dawn C. Chmielewski, an entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times explains, its not just musicians that are getting a boost from this new practice, but also some of the self-made tastemakers who have become YouTube stars.

Television networks are also beginning to love technology, specifically DVRs. Though the industry has long despised the timeshifting devices which allow viewers to skip commercials, executives are once again discovering how they can significantly boost ratings.

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about why the film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey” lost its male lead. Beyond being uncomfortable with his new found stardom, Charlie Hunnam was also pushing for script revisions according to some reports.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why the creators of “South Park” missed the deadline for their latest episode, “The Lion King” becomes Broadway’s first billion dollar production and the hit television series “Glee” announces its final season.

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Showbiz Sandbox 198: One Flop Does Not A Studio Break

July 15, 2013

Though the media might like to focus on Hollywood’s failures whenever a big blockbuster tanks, the reality is most movie studios can weather a flop or two. Modern-day entertainment conglomerates include music, merchandising, consumer products and travel divisions of which the movie studio is much smaller part. Disney, for instance, made nine times as much revenue in 2012 on its television media holdings than it did with its movie studio.

Even so, without a pipeline of even modestly successful movies, an entertainment company’s entire operation can eventually suffer. That’s why even though mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is in a bit of a dry spell lately, (see “The Lone Ranger”) someone in Hollywood will always be willing to bet on his next project.

The past week also saw a seemingly endless supply of news stories concerning the health of celebrities. Placido Domingo was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, Randy Travis is in serious condition after suffering a stroke, Elton John canceled a tour after emergency surgery for appendicitis and it was all topped by the untimely death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith at age 31.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Meredith Vieira’s return to television, a Twitter storm over “Sharknado” and Joan Rivers’ dispute with the Writers Guild.

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Showbiz Sandbox 190: How The Academy’s New Voting Rules Will Affect The Oscars?

May 6, 2013

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will now be allowing members to vote in all 24 Oscar categories, including Documentary Short Subject and Foreign Language Film. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large and host of the Oscar Talk podcast, believes the change is long overdue. She explains what the old voting rules were and how these new ones will affect the Oscars moving forward.

The Rolling Stones are also making changes, at least to the ticket prices for their current North American tour. With face-value prices upwards of $600 has the legendary UK band and its tour promoters misjudged fan’s appetites for paying top dollar for big acts? Based on the number of unsold tickets to the first few shows of the tour, the answer is yes.

Meanwhile on Broadway, the Tony Award nominations were announced last week. “Kinky Boots”, “Matilda” and “Lucky Guy” lead the pack with the most nominations. We try to make educated predictions, and blind guesses, as to who might walk home with a Tony in June.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including six billion hours of YouTube videos, trademarking superheroes and why studios don’t want to pay a tax on movie tickets in China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 137: A Revealing Look At Who Votes For The Oscars

February 20, 2012

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never published a complete list of the 5,765 members who cast ballots for their annual Oscars. Despite the secrecy surrounding the Academy’s membership, Nicole Sperling worked for months with her colleagues at the Los Angeles Times to confirm 5,100 members. Sperling explains the method behind the Times’ research and some of the details they uncovered. Did you know only 2% of members are under the age of 40? Neither did we.

While the Academy Awards may celebrate some of the big critical and financial successes of the past year, Aaron Rich, the gentleman blogger behind All The Movies I Watch joins us to discuss some of his top movies of 2011, many of which were overlooked by Oscar voters.

If you watch the Oscars telecast this weekend you’ll probably be doing so through a cable or satellite signal. Aero, a new company backed by the likes of Barry Diller, hopes to change that by providing those wishing to cut their cable cord with a special antenna capable of receiving broadcast television. That is if the inevitable law suits don’t shut them down first.

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Showbiz Sandbox 127: Has NBC Lost Touch With Its Community?

November 28, 2011

When NBC removed the quirky sitcom “Community” from their mid-season schedule the show’s cult following went berserk. Fans launched petitions via Twitter and Facebook and in an ironic twist, got the show selected as TV Guide Magazine’s second annual Fan Favorites winner. In a desperate effort to find success with their primetime programming, NBC has given the “Community” time slot to another acclaimed comedy with mediocre ratings, “Up All Night”. Is anyone minding the store at the struggling network, or are all these calculated strategic moves?

Maybe “Community” can be saved by Netflix. That’s not such a far fetched idea now that the video rental cum streaming service is resuscitating the long-canceled “Arrested Development” by producing another 10 episodes. Yet, as Netflix moves into original content, it stock price continues to decline as some of the companies cash flow problems are made public.

Meanwhile, 30 years after it occurred, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s department has decided to reopen the case of Natalie Wood’s death. The legendary actress drowned under mysterious circumstances in 1981 while boating with her husband Robert Wagner. Could investigators actually find new evidence so long after the fact, or are they following tips from sources who might have ulterior motives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 121: Why 3D Movie Tickets Are About To Get More Expensive

October 3, 2011

As moviegoers grow more skeptical over paying premiums to see 3D movies you would think now would be a bad time to raise ticket prices yet again. However, if Sony Pictures has their way that’s just what may happen. Last week the studio told exhibitors they would no longer pay for 3D glasses after May 2012 triggering the start of a war between studios and cinemas that may wind up hitting movie audiences right in the wallet. We take a deeper look at the history and reasons behind this ongoing dispute.

Maybe movie buffs should forego the multiplex altogether and choose to stay home with a hot new independent film. Prescreen is an innovative new movie marketing and distribution platform for filmmakers and distributors that can help you find just the right one. Shawn Bercuson, the company’s CEO, joins us to explain what Prescreen is all about.

Facebook has also gotten into the discovery game with Open Graph, a new features which allows users to share experiences with friends in realtime. Now whenever a Facebook user is listening to music on Pandora or watching a movie on Netflix it will broadcast to everyone they are connected with on Facebook. What does Facebook’s entry into media recommendation mean for existing players such as, Spotify and Pandora?

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Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

July 25, 2011

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

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Showbiz Sandbox 112: Why Netflix Had To Raise Its Prices

July 18, 2011

You would have thought the world was coming to an end last week after popular movie streaming service Netflix raised its prices by 60%. The company’s customers took to blogs and social networks in revolt, threatening to cancel their subscriptions. However, between the cost of mailing DVDs and paying increased licensing fees for content, a Netflix rate hike was inevitable. Is Netflix still one of the best movie bargains available today, and if not, are there any alternatives?

Speaking of subscription offerings, one of Europe’s hottest music streaming services is finally available in the United States. Will Spotify be able to displace some of the entrenched players in the space like Spotify and Rdio? You can find out for yourself since we have some Spotify invitations to give away to a few lucky listeners.

Over in television-land the Emmy nominations were announced and as usual, there were a few noticeable omissions. Just ask “Sons of Anarchy” producer Kurt Sutter who chastised the Academy via Twitter for not recognizing the show’s star Katey Sagal (who also happens to be his wife).

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