Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

Digital technology helped Hollywood significantly reduce the production cost of movies that overflow with stunning visual effects. One major downside to such technological advances is how easy it has become to steal, duplicate and distribute pristine copies of digital content. Movie studios were reminded just how vulnerable they are after a cyberattack against Sony Pictures resulted in several upcoming films being leaked online.

Netflix, on the other hand, delivers digital content legally, even if some of its subscribers happen to be access the service surreptitiously from countries where the company doesn’t operate. Netflix announced it would be launching soon in two such countries; Australia and New Zealand.

On Broadway meanwhile, productions are gearing up for what is usually a busy holiday season. A few new musicals however are off to slow starts. We’ll give you a rundown on how all the shows are doing and which are worth seeing.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Russia’s proposed boycott of Hollywood movies, why Hasbro ditched Dreamworks Animation and how Apple intends to bundle Beats Music.

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

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 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 180: Binge-Viewing Is Transforming The Way We Watch Television

With new streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime popping up all the time, we now have the ability to watch entire seasons of episodic television series all at once.  Now Netflix is taking binge-viewing one step further by releasing all 13-episodes of their original drama series “House of Cards” at once.  Dawn Chmielewski of the Los Angeles Times explains how the trend is altering narrative structures, existing revenue models and the entire television landscape.

Speaking of television, the Super Bowl proved once again to be a huge ratings bonanza with more than 108 million viewers tuning in to the football championship game.  Unfortunately a power outage delayed the airing of a post-game television show which had hoped to get a boost from carryover viewers.

Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” continues to top the worldwide box office, leading a pack of Oscar contenders that continues to attract big audiences well into the new year.

Of course we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week including news about a film version of the hit series “Entourage”, plans for subscription channels on YouTube and Ticketmaster (sort of) ditches its horrible security system.

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Showbiz Sandbox 177: The Bloomin’ Onion Effect: Why Audiences Are Happy Movies Have Gotten Longer

In an age where audiences have grown used to the brevity of YouTube clips and 140 character updates, Hollywood is instead serving up super sized movies. Six of the top ten movies from 2012 were over two hours, including comic book movies like “The Avengers”. Even comedies such as “This Is 40” crossed the 120 minute mark and don’t even get us started on “The Hobbit”.

Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times explains the increase in movie running times has a lot to do with the creative control marquee directors have over their films as well as digital tools that allow them to shoot more footage. Surprisingly, Keegan found that most moviegoers appreciate longer running times since it makes them feel they are getting a more value for the price of admission.

Also from the Los Angeles Times is Glenn Whipp, who joins us to discuss some of the surprise Academy Award nominations announced last week and whether the Golden Globes might affect who wins Oscars this year.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a resolution in Superman’s court case, the return of daytime soap operas and whether the film adaption of “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be rated NC-17.

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Showbiz Sandbox 175: Fixing Electronic Oscar Voting In One Easy Step

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would allow electronic voting for this year’s Oscar nominations many industry insiders felt it was long overdue.  However with a median age of 62, the Academy’s membership may not be ready to cast ballots online.  Heck, some members don’t even have computers.

Now reports have emerged that the Academy’s electronic voting procedure has hit a few speed bumps.  Members have had password problems and those that were able to log into the voting system found it difficult and complicated.  Some fear that voting for the Oscars will reach an all-time low.  Yet there may be a very simple way to overcome some of the security concerns the Academy and its members have in casting online ballots.

The National Film Registry cast a vote of their own last week, adding 25 films to its archives in the Library of Congress, declaring them culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.  Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean these films will actually be preserved.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a lucrative holiday box office, big changes for “The Walking Dead” and a historical court ruling for screenwriters.

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Showbiz Sandbox 131: Broadway Flops Find New Life On The Road

Even the worst Broadway flops can wind up turning a profit once they begin touring in cities throughout the world. Patrick Healy, the theater news and features reporter for the New York Times, explains how sometimes it doesn’t matter if you make it big on the Great White Way, provided you’re a hit in Buffalo. He also provides a glimpse at what we might see at this year’s Tony awards.

Speaking of awards, the Director’s Guild, Writer’s Guild and Producer’s Guild announced their nominations for end-of-year accolades, helping to further define which films might be in the running for this year’s Oscars. Still, there doesn’t seem to be a front runner for Best Picture.

Music sales were up in 2011 for the first time since 2004. As expected, the sale of digital albums rose significantly as CD’s and other physical copies continued to decline.

Of course, we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Van Halen’s reunion tour, new trouble for Netflix and the resignation of Disney’s marketing head.

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Showbiz Sandbox 126: Foot In Mouth Disease Sweeps Through Hollywood

Getting publicity in Hollywood can be a very difficult task. If you are an A-list director like Brett Ratner or a hot actor like Ashton Kutcher however, all you need to do is make a bigoted statement or fire off an ignorant Twitter post and you’ll get more ink than you ever wanted. Ratner’s homophobic slur forced him to resign as producer of next year’s Oscars, while Kutcher’s uninformed opinion on current events caused him to rethink his social media participation. Has the entertainment industry become overly sensitive or do its inhabitants just have no class? We try to figure out what all the fuss is about.

The other big news of the week was the sale of record label EMI to Universal Music Group and Sony. EMI’s owner, Citibank, decided to split the record label from its publishing arm in an effort to get the deal passed antitrust regulators. As the music industry contracts from four major record companies to three, what will it mean for indie artists and their fans?

Broadway may also be undergoing some changes soon. Long running musicals such as “Mamma Mia!”, “Chicago” and “Mary Poppins” seem to be fading fast and may need to make way for new productions such as a revival of “Porgy & Bess”, “Evita” featuring Ricky Martin and a stage version of “Bonnie & Clyde”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 125: Are Radio D.J.’s A Thing Of The Past?

Radio listenership has eroded over the past several years as consumers have adopted streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora.  To stay competitive and survive, Clear Channel, the nation’s largest radio station operator, shocked the industry this past week by firing dozens of local D.J.’s and replacing them with a national programming team.  Indie-label artists and music fans are sure to suffer as radio playlists become more homogenized and less relevant.

Google has no plans to get into radio, however rumors have surfaced that they might be trying to add a cable television operation to their broadband project in Kansas.  Launching and maintaining a cable television service is not exactly like running a search engine; it can be expensive, take years and ultimately lead to a lot of red ink.

Comedian Louis C.K. has shunned traditional cable altogether.  He’s decided to broadcast his upcoming comedy concert directly to fans via the Internet, bypassing traditional television distribution.

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Showbiz Sandbox 119: Thompson On Toronto and Telluride

The Toronto International Film Festival has become a mandatory stop for studios opening awards contenders in the fall. The last four best picture winners at the Academy Awards, including The King’s Speech, all played in Toronto. Along with the smaller, cozier Telluride Film Festival, Toronto is where some films first start picking up awards buzz. Anne Thompson, editor of IndieWire’s Thompson on Hollywood, just returned from both festivals and provides a few details to those of us who weren’t lucky enough to go.

The Emmy Awards were held on Sunday evening and once again “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” won top honors. Though many of the award winners were predictable, there were still a few surprises, such as Melissa McCarthy from the sitcom “Mike & Molly” walking off with lead actress in a comedy. The Emmy telecast itself however was a bit of a “train wreck”.

Netflix continued to top headlines this past week after their stock price plunged 19 percent upon lowering their subscriber projections. Apparently their higher prices have scared off potential customers and caused a few to abandon the video rental service. Now Netflix has announced they will split their business in two, renaming the DVD-by-mail service Qwikster.

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