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 260: The Race To Build A Bigger, Louder And More Expensive Movie Theater

December 8, 2014

When it comes to giant screen cinema IMAX is still the most dominant player, but with theater owners building their own premium large format auditoriums new competitors have started to spring up. Dolby, a company known for cinema audio technology, is the latest to enter the fray with their own PLF offering that includes bigger screens, more immersive sound and, of course, a higher ticket price. Whether such offerings will catch on with moviegoers remains to be seen.

The only big news anyone in the entertainment industry wants to talk about right now is the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Security experts say it’s shaping up to be the largest and most damaging hack against a commercial business in history. Authorities investigating the crime are no closer to catching the perpetrator than when the incident first made headlines two weeks ago.

The Grammy Awards were also making headlines last week. In fact, the annual music awards show tried to stay at the top of the news cycle by announcing nominees via various platforms throughout the course of an entire day. The real story however, turned out to be which musicians actually received nominations and which were overlooked.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the name of the next James Bond film, U2 announces a world tour and CBS gets into another retransmission dispute.

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

December 1, 2014

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 245: Guardians of the Celluloid – Hollywood Big Shots Rally Around Film Stock

August 4, 2014

With the entertainment industry having fully embraced digital technology, the world’s only remaining motion picture film supplier was preparing to cease manufacturing 35mm stock. However, a group of influential filmmakers, Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino among them, have convinced studios to enter into an agreement with Kodak that will keep celluloid alive for a few more years.

Digital technology was actually supposed to simplify the production and distribution of movies, music and television. Yet as the industry adapts to new tools and workflows the learning curve has been long and steep. The most recent example occurred when a digital content file was mislabeled and caused cinemas to play the wrong movie.

Meanwhile, the television streaming service Aereo can’t seem to catch a break. Even after tge U.S. Supreme Court ruled they are acting as a cable operator the U.S. Copyright Office refuses to issue Aereo a compulsory license claiming they are not a cable company.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including some controversial comments about the current conflict in Gaza, Alvin and the Chipmunks head to Broadway and the pop star Lorde curates music for the next “Hunger Games” movie.

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

November 11, 2013

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 212: Should There Be An Oscar For Casting Directors?

November 4, 2013

Last week Woody Allen wrote an “open letter” to the film industry pointing out that casting is the only single card credit at the beginning of a movie which is not honored by the Academy Awards. Like many before him, the filmmaker argued casting directors are crucial to any good movie, especially his. Should the Oscars consider adding a category for casting directors to recognize them alongside editors, cinematographers and other craftspeople?

Meanwhile, a film that hasn’t started the casting process in earnest is “Star Wars: Episode VII”. The movie doesn’t even have a script yet, which is why its filmmakers have been trying to convince Disney to push its release date back a year to 2016.

In the television world there was bad news for Time Warner Cable last week. Their dispute with CBS which led to a month-long blackout of the network cost the company over 300,000 subscribers. This likely means other cable providers will be afraid to pick fights with broadcasters over the rising cost of programming. Digital rights, however, are an entirely different battle.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “slow TV” is such a hit in Norway, the rising cost of the “Hunger Games” franchise and the Jonas Brothers officially call it quits.

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Showbiz Sandbox 151: Is It Time To Move Your Music To The Cloud?

June 11, 2012

If anyone is going to struggle with managing their digital music collection it’s Bob Boilen, the creator and host of NPR’s All Songs Considered, and a talented musician in his own right. Boilen created quite a stir a few weeks back when he announced he had just deleted all his music. Rather than keep tens-of-thousands of songs on his hard drive, Boilen has decided to move all his music to the cloud. He joins us for an in-depth conversation about the pros and cons of how we’ll all be listening to music in the future.

The 66th Annual Tony Awards were held over the weekend to honor this year’s best Broadway production and “Once”, based on the hit indie film, was the big winner this year taking home eight awards including Best Musical. Even host Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t liven up a lackluster show where the highlight was meant to be a number from a ten-year-old musical performed live from a Caribbean cruise ship.

When tickets went on sale recently for Justin Bieber’s upcoming tour they sold out all 48 shows in less than 60 minutes. Two concerts at Madison Square Garden sold out in 30 seconds. Yet, what might seem technically impossible at first becomes more understandable upon learning just how few tickets went on sale to the public.

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Showbiz Sandbox 144: Measuring Media Proves Difficult In The Digital Age

April 9, 2012

Whether trying to figure out how many users the streaming music actually has or why audiences have abandoned television shows in the ten o’clock hour, it turns out keeping track of media metrics often requires fuzzy logic.

In one instance the ratings for CNBC in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic plummeted when three people included in Nielsen’s measurement sampling turned 50. Meanwhile, Billboard’s new formula for ranking singles caused Justin Bieber to narrowly miss hitting the number one spot.

There have been no problems counting money at movie theater and Broadway box offices. “Hunger Games” has helped movie grosses continue their record setting pace for the year and over on the Great White Way, three musicals pulled in over $2 million during Easter break.

Of course, we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week, including Ryan Seacrest’s Olympic efforts, Vince Vaughn’s bad timing and YouTube’s confusing relationship with Viacom.

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Showbiz Sandbox 141: Mike Daisey Learns The Difference Between Journalism and Art

March 19, 2012

Monologist Mike Daisey began performing his one-man show, “The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs”, hoping to highlight the poor working conditions suffered by workers who make Apple products in Chinese factories. When it was learned that Daisey made-up most of his accounts of meetings with factory employees, it stirred up a debate over the changing definition of journalism. Are Daisey’s monologues really human truths in story form, or was he simply bending the truth to tell a better story?

Meanwhile, fans of British television are probably already familiar with Acorn Media. Now current and classic British programming such as “Upstairs Downstairs” can be watched on the company’s new streaming service, Acorn TV. Most recently Acorn acquired the rights to the popular World War II mystery series “Foyle’s War” as well as the estate of Agatha Christie. Miguel Penella, the company’s CEO, joins us to discuss some of Acorn’s bold moves for survival and long-term growth.

In music news, Billboard has finally figured out a way to include online music streaming figures in their weekly Hot 100 chart. Even so, some skeptics are pointing out that music video plays still aren’t being counted.

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