Showbiz Sandbox 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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Showbiz Sandbox 248: Hollywood Squeezes States For More Tax Breaks

California is set to triple their tax subsidies for film and television production to more than $330 million annually in an effort to stem the tide of runaway production to states with larger tax incentives. Richard Verrier of the Los Angeles Times discusses the growing debate over the value of film tax breaks and whether they actually create new jobs, or just shift them to different locations.

There is absolutely no debate over whether this summer’s box office was down from the previous year. However as we explain, comparing year-over-year box office figures is misleading at best and ultimately a fool’s errand.

In an unusual move the rock band U2 will be giving away its new album “Songs of Innocence” to more than 500 million iTunes users for a limited time. Making the release free to download only serves to further underscore where most artists make their money these days; on tour.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new head of DreamWorks, why it will take a century for anyone to read author Margaret Atwood’s latest work and “The Simpsons” make their way to China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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Showbiz Sandbox 217: In Hollywood You’re Nobody Till Somebody Sues You

The entertainment industry is marking the end of 2013 with a flurry of lawsuits all having to do, one way or another, with profit participation. Moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein have filed suit against Warner Bros. over profits from sequels to “The Hobbit”, a property they originally owned. Then there’s the fired creator of “The Walking Dead” who is suing AMC claiming the network owes him tens of millions of dollars for the hit television series.

Filmmaker James Cameron is no stranger to legal battles since he is constantly having to fend off plagiarism lawsuits. Last week the director said he struck a tax deal with New Zealand to film not one, but three “Avatar” sequels in the country.

Golden Globe nominations were announced last week helping solidify awards season frontrunners such as “12 Years A Slave”, “American Hustle” and “Gravity” among others. Keep in mind, only about 90 international entertainment journalists get to nominate and vote for the Globes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new additions to the National Film Registry, the new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how Beyoncé surprised fans with a new album.

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Showbiz Sandbox 207: Which New TV Shows Are Hits? Ratings Alone Won’t Tell You

The new television season got off to a strong start last week with major broadcast networks celebrating higher prime-time viewership. That is what initial ratings results would lead one to believe, though such figures are increasingly inaccurate. Delayed viewing on DVRs and online has made it more difficult than ever to properly measure viewership in a timely fashion.

Changes are also afoot at the Oscars as the Academy is modifying the way animated films are nominated for Best Animated Feature. Rather than rely on a selection committee, a majority of the organization’s 6,000 members will now be able to participate in the nomination process by viewing films on screeners.

Meanwhile as the film industry moves from celluloid film to digital projection, object based audio is also being adopted over traditional channel based surround sound. Major studios recently made the issue more contentious by mandating any new audio be distributed in a common, non-proprietary format. Will this stifle future innovation in the cinema space?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why iTunes music purchases have started disappearing, Robocop returns to Detroit (literally) and “Star Wars” fans draft an open letter to director J.J. Abrams about how to make the franchise.

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