Showbiz Sandbox 354: Why the Entertainment Industry Should Care About Net Neutrality

February 6, 2017

President Donald Trump’s selection of Ajit Pai to chair the Federal Communications Commission has moved quickly to rollback consumer protection regulations long thought to be settled; specifically net neutrality. Rules put in place to ensure an open internet allowing every company to compete on equal footing could get thrown out for ones that favor four telecom giants. That could mean record labels, movie studios, streaming music and video providers wind up paying much more to reach audiences.

In addition, Pai threw out proposed rules that would have allowed cable subscribers to purchase their set top boxes. Consumers in the United States presently pay $200 or more per year to rent such equipment putting $20 billion annually into the pockets of video providers. Will legislative bodies in other countries take similar stances in the wake of such F.C.C. moves?

This all comes as streaming music revenue has helped slow or reverse years of declining income sales for record companies. Nielsen music reports that streaming platforms provided 38% of total audio consumption in 2016, up from 23% in 2014. In fact, these days a glut of streaming music providers are trying just about everything to differentiate themselves in what has become a crowded marketplace.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Disney’s $100 million anti-poaching settlement with animators, Oprah Winfrey joins “60 Minutes” and which media outlets have backed out of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 349: How the 2016 Box Office Defied the Odds

January 3, 2017

Apparently political pollsters aren’t the only forecasters whose predictions can be wrong. With fewer high profile blockbusters than 2015, some in Hollywood believed that the 2016 North American box office could surpass the previous year. However, a number of unexpected hits like “The Jungle Book” and “Deadpool” helped box office climb to a record high of $11.4 billion.

Meanwhile in China, the rapid box office growth that saw a 50% rise in 2015 slowed dramatically. In fact, the country’s box office actually fell in the last half of 2016, causing a modest 3% gain, year-over-year. We’ll explain what caused the Chinese box office to cool off so quickly and why there may be some good news buried in the financials.

Our resident theatre expert Michael Giltz will brief us on all the new productions opening on Broadway this spring. He’ll tell us which shows he would invest in (if he had the money) and which might be headed to a town near you when they go out on tour.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, a banner year for cable news networks and how record labels are finally seeing some profits from streaming music revenue.

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Showbiz Sandbox 346: Critics Are Mixed Up About This Year’s Best Movies

December 5, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end movie critics have begun announcing their picks for the year’s noteworthy releases. As in recent years, critics groups from New York to Los Angeles differ slightly on what the top movie should be. The New York critics group went with the musical “La La Land”, while The L.A. group chose the drama “Moonlight”. To really confuse things the National Board of Review selected “Manchester by the Sea”. What this breadth of selections means is there were plenty of great films to see this year.

Where you see these movies, on the other hand, continues to be a debate, at least for the heads of movie studios. Kevin Tsujihara, the head of Warner Bros., made it known his company would like to release films into the home market soon after their release in movie theaters. He says the studio is having “constructive conversations” with a few cinema operators to make this a reality, but what that really means is anybody’s guess.

There seems to be no confusion however over whether TV networks want to attend the winter press gathering of the Television Critics Association; they don’t. These annual events allow networks to promote new shows while giving journalists a chance to grill the creatives and executive behind them. It looks as if many networks are skipping out on this January’s press tour as the top executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declining their invites.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including DirecTV’s plans to go over the top, Netflix allows users to download movies for offline viewing and the Bee Gees get a new record deal.

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Showbiz Sandbox 340: Bob Dylan Is A Poet and We Didn’t Know It

October 18, 2016

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature last week there were cries of joy and jeers of contempt over the decision. Music Journalist Sal Nunziato joins us to ponder whether Dylan’s work is in fact literature. He explains why, out of all the musicians that could have received such an award, it had to be Dylan.

Nunziato explains who out of this year’s 19 nominees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should actually get in. Will Kraftwerk finally make the cut? Joan Baez seems like a no-brainer and nobody would be shocked if Pearl Jam makes it through on their first attempt, but what about bands like Depeche Mode and hip-hop stars such as Tupac Shakur?

Meanwhile, there’s never been more ways to listen to music thanks to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Now Amazon has entered the world of music streaming and hopes that soon every song request begins with the word “Alexa.”

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an expansion of the latest Harry Potter franchise, Billy Bush reaches a settlement to depart “Today” and Netflix gives comedian Chris Rock a huge payday.

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Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 328: Pokémon Finally Brings Augmented Reality to Life

July 11, 2016

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 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 324: Can These 100 People Fix The Academy’s Diversity Problem?

June 6, 2016

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences failed to recognize the work of minority actors and filmmakers for the second year in a row, the organization promised to double the number of minorities within the next four years. The Los Angeles Times has taken matters into their own hands by suggesting 100 industry professionals that could make the Academy more diverse. Tre’vell Anderson, the staff writer who oversaw the project, joins us to explain how the list was compiled and what the response has been.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Disney has scheduled four weeks of reshoots for the Star Wars spin-off “Rogue One”. There is some speculation that Disney felt the film was too dark, however it could just be the standard reshoots multi-million dollar blockbusters often go through.

Sony made some revisions of their own last week to their senior executive ranks. Specifically the heads of both the motion picture and television groups both announced their departure from the studios. What’s noteworthy about the news is that both had worked at the studio for 25 years.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including when the Broadway hit “Hamilton” might lose its leading man, Nintendo revamps Pokemon in China and Amazon expands its content offerings in Japan.

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Showbiz Sandbox 322: Cannes Film Festival Spurs Critical Debate

May 24, 2016

This year’s Cannes Film Festival ended over the weekend with the awarding of the Palm d’Or, the festival’s top prize, to an unlikely, albeit quite solid, movie from director Ken Loach. A critically panned movie from filmmaker Xavier Dolan was given the runner up award, the Grand Prix, leaving many in Cannes baffled over how the jury made its selections. However festival director Thierry Fremaux has always said, Cannes is not set up for critics.

The Broadway season also came to a close last week earning a record $1.3 billion in ticket sales. Musical productions took in most of the revenue over the past year, though it was “The Lion King” and not “Hamilton”, which only opened in August, which ruled the box office.

Over at HBO Michael Lombardo, the longtime head of programming for the premium cable network is stepping down, whereas at Viacom Sumner Redstone has stirred up a hornets nest by ousting his longtime protogé, the company’s chief executive, from the trust that will eventually control the company.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including whether the wave of summer blockbusters will prove to be too much competition, rumors of Adele’s massive record deal and Bill Cosby gets his day in criminal court.

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Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

May 2, 2016

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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