Showbiz Sandbox 381: Telluride and Toronto Continue To Shape Awards Season

September 18, 2017

Each year the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals are held so closely together their programming often overlaps as each vies to land titles that will be in the running for major awards (read: Oscars). Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, has just returned from Telluride and Toronto and she fills us in on all the festival season favorites.

While Thompson was in Toronto enjoying movies like “The Shape of Water” from director Guillermo del Toro, film buyers were struggling to find anything to pick up. There was a general sense that all the worthwhile titles had been cherry picked before the festival even began.

Meanwhile the Emmy Awards were held over the weekend honoring the best television from the past year. At this year’s ceremony a disruptive streaming video provider made a big splash, though not the one everyone expected. Hulu took home the Best Drama Emmy for “The Handmaid’s Tale”, despite Netflix having three shows nominated in the category.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the head of NBC admitting most of its primetime viewership is not watched live, George R. R. Martin’s new TV series and MoviePass surpsasses 400,000 subscribers in under a month.

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Showbiz Sandbox 378: ESPN Goes Looking For Some Fights

August 28, 2017

In the midst of a blockbuster boxing match viewed around the world between welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and MMA champion Conor McGregor, ESPN announces they spent a small fortune to secure the worldwide rights to future bouts. The network plans on providing access to the fights on their recently announced streaming service, with ESPN even getting a potential piece of any fights that go the pay-per-view route.

The Mayweather vs. McGregor match was faulted for causing the North American box office to dip to it’s lowest level in 16 years this past weekend. In fact, box office receipts which will not surpass $4 billion for the first time since 2006 thanks to an attendance decrease of 25%. Maybe MoviePass, a subscription moviegoing service, will help fill cinemas now that they’ve lowered their price to $10 per month.

Meanwhile “Handbook for Mortals” took the young adult book genre by storm over the last week, and not in a good way. The debut novel topped the New York Times bestseller list for that genre its first week out without anyone ever having heard of the book or its unknown author. Controversy ensued.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the issue of on-set safety has gotten a lot of attention after Tom Cruise got injured making the next Mission: Impossible movie, the big editorial changes at the Los Angeles Times and how “The Walking Dead” has inspired another lawsuit.

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Showbiz Sandbox 377: Disney Breaks Up With Netflix To Launch Solo Streaming Service

August 14, 2017

After years of licensing their movies to Netflix, Disney announced last week that it will be launching their own streaming service when their current deal expires. Then in a true reordering of the media landscape, Disney also revealed it will be creating a standalone subscription streaming service for ESPN. Realistically though Disney might be one of the few entertainment companies that could successfully pull off direct-to-consumer strategy on such a grand scale.

Perhaps Disney felt threatened by content distributors like Netflix and felt compelled to make a move. After all, just days after making their announcement Netflix said it had lured producer Shonda Rhimes away from Disney’s ABC Studios to make original programming for its own service. Netflix also stole hitmaker Chuck Lorre away from CBS and cut a deal with the Coen Brothers to make one of their next projects.

Meanwhile, there’s lots of drama on Broadway, literally and figuratively. Everyone is talking about the collapse of the musical “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” which has charges of racism, unprofessionalism and bad management swirling around it. Now the show is closing long before its $12 million budget was recouped.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Warner Music Group posted big revenue gains thanks to streaming, Bruce Springsteen heads to Broadway and the emergence of a new Chinese media magnate.

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Showbiz Sandbox 375: The Seedy Side of Show Business is Revealed in “Walking Dead” Lawsuit

July 30, 2017

Six years after AMC fired Frank Darabont from “The Walking Dead,” the hit TV series he created and oversaw, details about why he was axed are emerging during a lawsuit filed by the filmmaker over profit participation. Citing unprofessional and erratic behavior AMC provided profanity filled emails Darabont sent to producers and executives during his tenure as showrunner. This has lead to many in Hollywood asking whether Darabont’s behavior was out of line or if he was simply trying to defend his show?

The lawsuit itself hinges on Darabont’s deal and whether the revenue AMC earns from “The Walking Dead” is significantly lower because the network is making deals with itself at a significantly reduced cost per episode. This is not the first self-dealing lawsuit to be filed by a creative in Hollywood, but given the $280 million being sought, its outcome could affect how the business operates in the future.

Meanwhile, under pressure from the Chinese government, the Dalian Wanda Group says it will no longer seek to acquire international entertainment properties, causing AMC Theatres, one of its own subsidiaries, to publicly distance itself, and leaving Hollywood wondering if funding from China might be drying up.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Amazon will start to distribute its own movies theatrically, Hulu gets nostalgic and Daniel Craig is set to return as James Bond in the next 007 movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 369: When the Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Comedy

June 5, 2017

Kathy Griffin and HBO’s Bill Maher learned first-hand last week just how easy it is to cross the line wherein one’s jokes and antics go from being humorous to offensive. But after apologies are issued and near-term financial repercussions are suffered, should the careers of boundary pushing comedians really come to an end because of one regrettable mistake?

Meanwhile with Apple introducing a ton of new hardware at its Worldwide Developer Conference, the company is actually reaping more rewards from its content business. In fact, last quarter Apple earned more from selling content than most media conglomerates earned during the same period.

We’ll also tell you why the beloved radio DJ who helped discover acts such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones is leaving his weekly show after 40 years. (Hint: It wasn’t his decision.)

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including journalist Megyn Kelly’s anticipated return to television, a non-English single tops the Billboard charts and big name musical acts hold a benefit pop concert to raise money for victims of a terrorist attack in Manchester.

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Showbiz Sandbox 368: Virtual Reality is a Big Winner at the Cannes Film Festival

May 29, 2017

This year’s Cannes Film Festival came to an end over the weekend with the Palm d’Or being awarded to “The Square”, a comedy with socio-political overtones directed by Sweden’s Ruben Östlund. Sofia Coppola won the award for Best Director for “The Beguiled”, only the second time in the festival’s 70-year-history the prize went to a woman.

Though critics found the films selected by Cannes programmers to be underwhelming this year, there was unanimous praise for a virtual reality project created by director Alejandro González Iñárritu which was installed at the festival. We’ll take you inside the unique VR experience and tell you why the fuss being made over it is legitimate.

Meanwhile, this year’s upfronts were held over the past two weeks giving us a pretty good picture about the state of modern television. Here’s the question, if we are presently in the era of peak TV, how come all the new shows networks are trotting out seem so boring.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the controversy over a women-only screening of “Wonder Woman,” Katy Perry signs on to judge the “American Idol” reboot and Steven Soderbergh returns to the directing movies… as we predicted.

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Showbiz Sandbox 367: Netflix Makes Waves At the Cannes Film Festival

May 24, 2017

If the Cannes Film Festival’s decision to premiere two Netflix films in competition was controversial when it was announced, it was all anyone could talk about once the festival actually began. It didn’t help that this year’s jury president, director Pedro Almodovar of Spain, made headlines on the first day when he was mis-translated as saying he wouldn’t award films that won’t play in cinemas with any prizes.

Just about every filmmaker and movie star attending Cannes has been asked about their opinion on the streaming versus cinema debate, though most have offered ambivalent answers, realizing that their next paycheck might be coming from Netflix or a similar service. To be sure, the discussion is far from over.

Meanwhile, after recent terrorist attacks throughout Europe, including nearby Nice, security has been tighter than ever for the more than 50,000 attendees in Cannes this year. This has caused delays at festival events for the first time in recent memory, though everyone has been very understanding. Especially this week, after bomb was set off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England killing 22 people.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how TV networks are learning to take advantage of Ramadan to boost viewership, King Kong will try to tackle Broadway and Jimmy Kimmel will return as the host of next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 365: As Cord-Cutting Grows, Media Company Revenue Falls

May 8, 2017

Media company stocks took a beating last week with a one-two punch from cord-cutting and a soft ad market. The first quarter of 2017 saw pay cable subscriptions fall by over 700,000 in the United States, the largest ever such loss. This has caused some concern that cord-cutting has accelerated just as major advertisers have started to spend less on marketing.

However, television networks may just be shifting where revenue comes from. Rather than huge carriage fees and ad rates tied to huge viewership, networks may now be earning money off licensing content to streaming video providers and selling ads on digital platforms. There’s just one problem; such digital platforms pay far less than networks used to getting.

Warner Music Group is also suffering from shrinking revenues thanks to consumer migration to streaming online services. The company signed a new licensing agreement with YouTube, but they aren’t happy with a deal they felt forced into accepting. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the multiple “Game of Thrones” spin-offs planned by HBO, Harry Potter heads to Broadway and the return of “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 359: Entertainment Workers Put Faith In More Perfect Unions

March 13, 2017

Trade unions and guilds are not a new concept in the entertainment industry, yet they seem to be making headlines lately as more niche craftspeople elect to join them or have them negotiate their contracts. Last week the largest employer of Spanish-language performers in the U.S. voted to join SAG-AFTRA and the United Scenic Artists, which represents set designers on Broadway, was able to sign its first contract with the League of Off-Broadway Theatres & Producers.

One major reason for all this recent union activity is the growing number of entertainment industry workers whose pay falls below a living wage. When the star of a hit telenovela airing on an NBCUniversal network needs to hold a second job as an Uber driver, you know there must be a problem.

Meanwhile, the influx of financing into Hollywood coming from China may be coming to an end. The Chinese government has begun to restrict the outflow of capital from the country to stem what they deem “irrational” foreign investments while at the same time stabilizing local currency. This new regulatory oversight helped kill Wanda’s $1 billion deal for Dick Clark Productions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how a rapper made history by knocking himself off the top of the album charts with his next release, HBO heads to Latin America with original programming and why we’ll have to wait a little longer for those “Avatar” sequels.

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Showbiz Sandbox 355: Adele’s Big Grammy Victory Is All In the Numbers

February 13, 2017

Though Beyoncé had been predicted to walk off with this years top Grammy Awards for her critically acclaimed album “Lemonade”, she was beat out by Adele who won five top awards for “25”. Rather than being racially motivated, as some would suggest, Adele’s Grammy success was buttressed by an album that sold 20 million copies making it by far one of the biggest albums of the last decade, topped only by sales of her previous release “21”.

Then there was the artist who has never sold a single record yet managed to win three Grammys this year. Chance the Rapper made history when he became the first artist to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album. “Coloring Book” won the Grammys for Best Mixtape and Best Rap Performance, while Chance the Rapper took home the prize for Best New Artist.

Meanwhile, the struggling entertainment conglomerate Viacom announced how it hopes to turn the company around. The company plans to focus on “silos” of branded properties which can be exploited across multiple platforms. This is the same strategy the Walt Disney Co. has used with great success; however Viacom’s existing properties are hardly as popular as Marvel or Pixar.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including plans to revive “American Idol” on television, Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” tops Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” for the first time and Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul music, announces her retirement.

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