Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

November 9, 2015

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 254: Are HBO and CBS Really Really Becoming Cord-Cutters?

October 21, 2014

The entertainment industry was stunned last week when Time Warner announced plans for HBO to go over the top. The premium cable channel intends to offer a standalone service in the US come 2015 that won’t require a cable subscription. Legions of cord-cutters rejoiced upon learning the news, but what they weren’t actually hearing about were the details of how the new plan would work.

Just a day later the broadcast network CBS offered a bit more information about their upcoming Access All In streaming service. The network will begin offering their programming directly to viewers via the web and mobile apps at a cost of $6 per month.

Both of these landmark moves are being seen as bellwethers for how television will be distributed in the future and they come with all sorts of ramifications. Will selecting television channels a la carte actually increase our cable bills? What do all these new services mean for net neutrality? What does all of this mean for Netflix? We’ll explain.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal with Simon & Schuster, Neil Patrick Harris gets tapped to host next year’s Oscars and why pop-star Lorde is persona non grata in San Francisco.

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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 239: A Gentleman’s Guide To This Year’s Tony Winners

June 9, 2014

This year’s Tony Awards spread the love around with many of the Broadway season’s most lauded shows taking home trophies. “A Raisin in the Sun” won several awards including best revival of a play. Actor Bryan Cranston earned a Tony for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson “All The Way”, which also won best play. The critical darling “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” walked off with one of the night’s biggest awards, best musical.

Meanwhile Audra McDonald made history by winning her sixth Tony for acting, the most ever won by a performer. There were very few surprises during this year’s ceremony, accept for maybe host Hugh Jackman starting the telecast off by hopping (literally) through a dance routine that lasted four minutes. And even though Neil Patrick Harris didn’t host this year’s ceremony as he has for the past three years, he still managed to make his presence felt by performing a number from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and winning the Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.

In the world of movies it appears the day-and-date release of movies both in theatres and online is quickly becoming the new normal, if the practice hasn’t done so already. Now, a new research report out of Europe suggests that overlapping release windows is not eroding cinema attendance.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the latest movie from the Wachowski siblings gets pushed into next year, “Game of Thrones” becomes the the most watched show in HBO’s history and despite critical praise the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster is struggling at the box office.

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Showbiz Sandbox 211: Why Movie Studios Are Playing Musical Chairs With Release Dates

October 28, 2013

There was a time if a Hollywood studio pushed back the release date for one of its eagerly anticipated titles it signaled the movie might be in trouble. If there was ever a sign that such stigmas no longer apply when delaying a release date, one need look no further than this year. An overly crowded and competitive awards season has meant the release dates for a number of high-end hopefuls have been wisely pushed into 2014, including “Monuments Men”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Distributors in China, Japan and South Korea may soon have to start worrying about release dates too. Box office is surging to record levels in Asia, thanks not to Hollywood blockbusters, but rather homegrown productions.

If it were up to consumer electronics manufacturers, we’d all be watching movies at home on our new 4K Ultra HD televisions. Broadcasters, burned by the original conversion to HD and a string of 3D experiments, want to know who is going to foot the bill this time around.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new, yet familiar, writers taking on the “Star Wars” sequels, YouTube gets into the music streaming business and Netflix wants to make original movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 187: Does The Justice System Finally Understand Copyright?

March 25, 2013

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States dealt another blow to copyright owners in a landmark ruling that confirmed what most consumer advocates had been saying for years; the first sale doctrine does not have geographic boundaries. The court smacked down publisher J. Wiley & Sons’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Supap Kirtsaeng for reselling textbooks he had purchased at a discount in his native Thailand.

While major entertainment companies and trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA may have been on the losing end with the Supreme Court, an appeals court handed them a major victory by ruling in favor of movie studios who claimed that the operator of isoHunt, a large BitTorrent site, was inducing copyright infringement. The court agreed isoHunt was not eligible for safe harbor.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced 25 new recordings that will be added to its official preservation registry. We’ll fill you in on the grab bag of popular music, radio shows, news reports, opera and other recordings that made the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including NBC’s silly decision to oust Jay Leno from The Tonight Show (again), the booming Chinese box office and “Downtown Abbey’s” record ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 163: Plenty To Feel Good About at Telluride and Toronto

September 17, 2012

Anne Thompson has just returned from two whirlwind weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. The editor of Indiewire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog is happy to report that, despite all the doomsayers, there is still reason to believe there are plenty of good studio and independent movies awaiting release this year. Thompson joins us for a discussion about this year’s festivities and tells us which films came out ahead as the awards season kicks off in earnest.

Someone who knows a few things about good how to make good movies is Tom Rothman, the Co-Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment along with Jim Gianopulos. Rothman announced he would be stepping down on January 1st, ending his 18-year tenure as head of the studio. Gianopulos, on the other hand, is sticking around to run the studio on his own.

The new TV season ramped up last week with the debut of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show and the season premiere of “Sons of Anarchy” pulling in big ratings.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, two new judges on “American Idol” and why streaming music could be bad for the environment.

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Showbiz Sandbox 97: What The Failure Of “Mars Needs Moms” Means For Hollywood

March 22, 2011

When Disney’s animated film “Mars Needs Moms” flopped at the box office, film industry insiders struggled to pinpoint a possible cause.  Was it the motion-capture animation style?  The lackluster storyline?  Are multiplexes saturated with too animated family films?  Have higher 3D ticket prices caused moviegoers to become more picky?  We are joined by New York Times media reporter Brooks Barnes who faults a long list of culprits for the movies failure.

Meanwhile, music industry big shots trekked to Austin, Texas last week hoping to find undiscovered artists at the South by Southwest music conference.  However, 13-year-old Rebbecca Black didn’t have to attend SxSW to attract attention.  She became the world’s latest pop-star in under a week when her much maligned song and music video turned into a viral Internet sensation.

Streaming video continues to change the television landscape.  Video streaming service Netflix made the jump into original programming by picking up a television series.  Such a move was aimed at keeping Netflix ahead of an endless assortment of competitors entering the market.

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