Showbiz Sandbox 331: Apparently Warner Bros. Needs to Start Making Donuts

In a scathing open letter published last week, an alleged ex-Warner Bros. employee took the studio and its chairman Kevin Tsujihara to task for a number of recent missteps. The author mocks studio brass for doubling down on the talent delivering critical duds such as “Batman v Superman” and their inability to make a hit movie, despite somehow managing to keep their jobs.

Though the veracity of the letter is questionable, it caused ripples in Hollywood not because it revealed a trove of inside secrets, but more due to the fact that it publicly stated what so many have been whispering about Warner Bros. lately; a lack of leadership and a confused executive team have led to a year of mixed results.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Rio Olympics, along with three or four billion viewers around the world. Despite audience figures that are down from the London games in numerous territories, the Summer Olympics is arguably still a ratings juggernaut hard to compete against, giving networks broadcasting the event a serious advantage.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how a Netflix documentary helped overturn a murder conviction, why Thomas Gibson got fired from “Criminal Minds” and Comedy Central cancels “The Nightly Show”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 328: Pokémon Finally Brings Augmented Reality to Life

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 326: How Brexit Will Affect the Entertainment Business

Thanks to the passage of a referendum in the United Kingdom dubbed Brexit, Britain will soon be leaving the European Union. Entertainment companies beyond those in the UK suddenly face a lot of uncertainty and confusion over deals they have already made and will be making in the months and years to come. We discuss how the Brexit vote may affect the entertainment industry.

In other troubling news, the long awaited (as in 20 years) sequel to “Independence Day” opened to disappointing box office returns. This has led to industry pundits spouting erroneous lessons Hollywood can take away from its release. Knowledgeable nuggets such as don’t wait too long to make a sequel (or did they forget about “Star Wars”) and don’t make sequels without the original star (though “Jurassic World” proved that theory wrong just last year).

We also take a look at virtual print fees or VPFs. A letter from one of our listeners asked us to clarify how small independent distributors can afford them. So, we review the history of VPFs, how they work around the world and when studios will stop paying them to theater owners.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a court decides that legendary rock band Led Zeppelin didn’t plagiarize its biggest hit, “Mr. Robot” gets more episodes in its second season and “Star Trek” fan films get a green light from Paramount Pictures (sort of).

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Showbiz Sandbox 322: Cannes Film Festival Spurs Critical Debate

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 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

In recent years, Chinese-owned companies have become the film industry’s biggest power players by scooping up production companies and cinema chains. The latest example came when AMC Theatres, owned by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, announced it will acquire Carmike Cinemas to become the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese are so hot on the cinema business given that their box office surpassed that of North America during the month of February for the second time ever. Yet if you were to ask some financial analysts, Hollywood Hollywood is starting to look like the video game industry before it imploded; bigger budgets, fewer winners and more losers. Is Hollywood about to shrivel up like Pac-Man?

Then there are those like Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Facebook, who are trying to convince Hollywood that it’s time to start making big movies available in consumer’s homes the same day they hit theaters. Is there any business model in which that could actually work?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the authors nominated for this year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, music sales in France plummet and Kevin Spacey won’t be heading up Relativity Media after all.

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Showbiz Sandbox 312: Scripting Those Perfect Grammy Moments

With nominees representing a wide range of genres including pop, country, hip-hop, R&B and rock, this year’s Grammy Awards had a little something for everyone. David Wild, one of the writers responsible for this year’s Grammy telecast and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to discuss Rihanna’s no-show, Kendrick Lamar’s electric performance and more.

It would seem that anyone who wasn’t watching the Grammys was at the movie theater watching “Deadpool”. The R-rated superhero movie that transformed from a comeback vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to a box office hit to a phenomenon, all in the space of five days.

Meanwhile China was also breaking box office records thanks to the Golden Week holiday associated with Chinese New Years. Plus, the Oscars are getting closer and we’ll report on the latest buzz generated by the BAFTAs and the WGA Awards.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an autobiography from rocker Bruce Springsteen, Disney is sending “Frozen” to Broadway and why media stocks have suddenly taken a nosedive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 311: Oscar Season Remains Uncharacteristically Unpredictable

The movie awards season remains as confusing as ever, with the Directors Guild handing out its top honor to “The Revenant”. Will this have any impact on an Oscar race in which “The Big Short” and “Spotlight” also look like major contenders? No one knows but we’ll try and sort it out.

Meanwhile, it appears Time Warner wants to join Disney, Fox and NBCUniversal as an owner of the streaming service Hulu. There’s only one catch; they’d like Hulu to stop showing all episodes from the current season of a TV series. Maybe they want to buy it so they can shut it down.

Over at Viacom, Sumner Redstone stepped down last week after a court mandated the 92-year-old would submit to a medical exam to determine his competency. Bowing to reality, Redstone resigned from his position as chairman of CBS and Viacom. Leslie Moonves is officially taking over CBS, but after daughter Shari Redstone publicly announced it wasn’t a good idea for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to take over, he did just that.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon plans to enter the retail space, ESPN plans to enter China and Matt LeBlanc is named as the new host of the popular automotive TV program, “Top Gear”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

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 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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