Showbiz Sandbox 234: Scandal and Politics Invade Hollywood (Again)

Two real-life controversies are presently complicating life in Hollywood where studios prefer to make lots of money and ignore complicated social issues or the sometimes tawdry private lives of their executives and talent. The first involves accusations of forcible rape by movie director Bryan Singer. The second involves boycotting a historic Tinseltown hotel over its owners politics.

In less contentious news it appears our prediction about the future of Craig Ferguson as host of the “Late Late Show” was correct, and he will indeed be departing by the end of this year. The host says the decision was entirely his own, despite what it might look like with David Letterman retiring from his show’s lead in, “Late Night”.

Tony nominations were announced last week to honor some of this year’s best and brightest Broadway productions and performers. We give you a rundown of all the front runners as well as a look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the “Star Wars Episode VII” casting announcement, AT&T’s acquisition offer of DirecTV and Ben Affleck’s blackjack trouble.

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Showbiz Sandbox 227: The Oscars Attract Big Business, Big Ratings and Big Money

If you weren’t surprised by any of the winners at this year’s Oscar ceremony, you may have Oscar prognosticators like Anne Thompson to blame. Indiewire’s editor-at-large was at the big show and joins us to discuss the telecast, the show, and all the money and effort poured into the annual awards season. Thompson also fills us in on her new book “The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to the Oscars, an Inside Look at the Changing Hollywood System“.

The business side of the film industry isn’t the only aspect of movies that is evolving. The sound accompanying new releases is getting a few enhancements thanks to immersive 3D audio. This has created an industry battle over audio formats.

Speaking of disputes, 19 Recordings, the music label responsible for “American Idol”, is once again suing their partner Sony. This time the argument is over the issue of whether digital tracks are sold or licensed to buyers. There is a huge difference in the royalty paid for each.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Tyler Perry leaves Lionsgate, Paramount is bullied into changing the marketing for “Noah” and Dreamworks Animation takes a write-down on “Turbo”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 225: Comcast and TimeWarner Cable Is A Marriage Made In….

The proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable has presented industry analysts with a number of complicated questions. Providing some of the answers is David Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, who joins us to provide background and insight into a transformative $45 billion deal that would combine the two largest media and technology providers in North America.

Though there are no legislative restrictions, will the U.S. government try to prevent to the two cable giants from consolidating? What concessions will the regulators ask of Comcast if allowing the merger to go through? How will consolidation give Comcast leverage in negotiations with content providers? Would the combined companies have too much control over the media? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for consumers?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BAFTA awards were handed out over the weekend to films with strong British ties. That wasn’t the case at the Berlin Film Festival where Chinese movies took home the top prizes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut, actress Ellen Page’s inspiring coming-out speech, and an update on actor Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art stunt.

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Showbiz Sandbox 223: The 2013 Worldwide Box Office – Who Won, Who Lost and Why

Thanks to surging theatrical grosses in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia, the international box office more than doubled North American earnings in 2013, topping out at a record $25 billion. Though Hollywood studio content continues to dominate globally, receipts for local productions are beginning to play a more significant role in many markets. We provide a breakdown of the annual box office for of all the major territories and explain why some fared better than others.

Speaking of breaking records, the telecast of this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had an audience of 112 million viewers. That makes it the most watched television show in U.S. history. As is often the case, the commercials proved more interesting than the game.

Last week the industry also mourned the tragic death of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from what appears to be a drug overdose. Unfortunately, obit writers were also kept busy with the passing of folk musician Pete Seeger, studio executive Tom Sherak and legendary animator Arthur Rankin Jr.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including an Oscar nomination for Best Song gets rescinded, “Back to the Future” is being turned into a Broadway musical and Disney plans to reboot Chip ‘n Dale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

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 220: Content Owners Can’t Afford Your New 4K Ultra HD Television

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas manufacturers stirred up a lot of buzz around 4K Ultra HD television sets. The proven and tested technology promises resolution four times greater than current high definition monitors. The biggest hurdle the industry must overcome for Ultra HD to work are the economics, specifically the high cost of delivering 4K content.

For those consumers who have given up on cable and broadcast television, commonly referred to as “cord-cutters”, the good news is they will now be able to watch wrestling via streaming video thanks to the WWE’s new online only network. However, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether they can continue using Aereo to stream local broadcast channels.

Meanwhile, this year’s awards season continues to chug along as the Golden Globes are handed out and the Director’s Guild of America announced their nominations.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are too sexy for France, the demographics of last year’s Broadway ticket sales and whether a movie critic’s tweets can be used in advertisements.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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

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 209: Why Twitter and Facebook Are Watching You Watch TV

Facebook and Twitter have entered into a fierce battle to hold sway over the conversations taking place around television shows. The social media giants intend to mine the viewing habits of millions of users for data that might be useful to television networks. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, discusses whether social chatter can lead to higher ratings and more advertising revenue.

Meanwhile, as the end of the year nears everyone is talking about awards season. Thanks to the fall film festival circuit and industry previews, virtually all Oscar hopefuls have already been seen and the handicapping of frontrunners has begun. However, it may take a while to view all entries for Best Foreign Language Film that were submitted by a record 76 countries.

The popular music streaming service Spotify turned five this past week and shared a few figures behind its success. One bit of data revealed that of the 20 million tracks hosted by service, 4 million have never even been streamed… not even once.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the rise of a 16-year-old pop star from New Zealand, “Fifty Shades Of Grey” loses a cast member and the Jonas Brothers cancel their upcoming tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 205: Awards Season Commences With Stellar Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals

Four of the last five films to win Best Picture Oscars first appeared at the Telluride Film Festival before officially premiering the following week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Anne Thompson from Indiewire attended both festivals this year and fills us in on the big movies everyone will be talking about during the upcoming awards season.

This past week also saw the death of Ray Dolby, the audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories to advance the art of motion picture sound. We debate whether the film industry is now discouraging future inventors from working in the space.

Meanwhile, revenue from digital movies and television shows continues to climb, up 24% this year alone. Unlike theatrical box office though, studios have remained tight lipped when it comes to providing actual sales figures, fearing actors and filmmakers will want a bigger cut.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the big winners at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, a racy Miley Cyrus video that racked up YouTube records and J.K. Rowling spins-off Harry Potter.

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