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

January 6, 2015

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 253: Nielsen Is Rating TV Shows By The (Wrong) Numbers

October 14, 2014

The method by which television ratings are collected and tabulated has long been criticized as imperfect. Now Nielsen, the research firm which provides the ratings, admitted this past week it had been reporting inaccurate audience figures to broadcast networks for the past seven months. Turns out viewership of this year’s season premieres was lower than originally thought. We’ll try and explain what the heck is going on here?

Comedian Adam Sandler is back in the news, though this time it’s for a movie which isn’t being made… even by Netflix. And just as she hits her stride as an action star, actress Scarlett Johansson (temporarily) gives up movies to appear in a television mini-series.

Even the world of live theater is a bit bizarre lately, at least according to composer Stephen Sondheim who is working on a new musical based on two surreal movies by the late Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. If that’s not crazy enough, the biggest box office winner on Broadway this fall has been “The Lion King”, a musical that has been running for 17 years.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Katy Perry books a trip to the Super Bowl, e-book software that spies on you and the fifth season of “The Walking Dead” premieres to record numbers… or so we’ve been told.

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Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

September 1, 2014

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 246: The Emmys Have A Hopeless Scheduling Problem

August 26, 2014

It’s bad enough that the Emmy Awards honor the exact same talent and television shows every year. Now, the Emmys are really growing stale by handing out prizes to shows that finished airing before last year’s ceremony. Unfortunately, as television migrates to year round programming, there is no good time to schedule the Emmys which would make them feel more timely or relevant.

The industry-at-large was likely glad to see at least one aspect of the Emmys go unchanged as shows from broadcast and cable networks continue to win the most awards over shows from streaming services such as Netflix, which went home empty handed. There also, thankfully, seems to be a voter backlash against shows positioning themselves in odd categories.

Meanwhile, August has proven to be the cruelest month for show business with the untimely death of actor Robin Williams and the passing of Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, among others.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon public relations battle with Hachette over e-book pricing, Jimmy Fallon comes out on top in the late night television war, and Anne Rice’s Vampire Lestat may see new life on the big screen.

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Showbiz Sandbox 245: Guardians of the Celluloid – Hollywood Big Shots Rally Around Film Stock

August 4, 2014

With the entertainment industry having fully embraced digital technology, the world’s only remaining motion picture film supplier was preparing to cease manufacturing 35mm stock. However, a group of influential filmmakers, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino among them, have convinced studios to enter into an agreement with Kodak that will keep celluloid alive for a few more years.

Digital technology was actually supposed to simplify the production and distribution of movies, music and television. Yet as the industry adapts to new tools and workflows the learning curve has been long and steep. The most recent example occurred when a digital content file was mislabeled and caused cinemas to play the wrong movie.

Meanwhile, the television streaming service Aereo can’t seem to catch a break. Even after tge U.S. Supreme Court ruled they are acting as a cable operator the U.S. Copyright Office refuses to issue Aereo a compulsory license claiming they are not a cable company.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including some controversial comments about the current conflict in Gaza, Alvin and the Chipmunks head to Broadway and the pop star Lorde curates music for the next “Hunger Games” movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

July 29, 2014

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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