Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

December 23, 2014

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

Read more


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.

Read more


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.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 215: How Many Music Streaming Services Does It Take To Make A Profit?

December 2, 2013

Just when you thought the online music streaming space couldn’t get any more crowded or competitive, along comes Deezer. The French company already boasts 5 million paying subscribers in 80 countries and now plans to launch in the United States, where Spotify and Pandora are the market leaders. However, none of these companies are actually profitable, which may be why services like Rdio went through a round of layoffs in November and is shuttering.

Profitability seems to be an issue for Sony Pictures too. The movie studio lost $181 million last quarter leading to the announcement of significant cost cutting measures in the wake of some summer box office duds.

Disappointing earnings and a declining subscriber base are also a problem at Time Warner Cable. As telcos and satellite providers continue to erode their market share, rumors have begun swirling that the second largest cable operator in North America might be acquired by one or more of its competitors, including Comcast.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Thanksgiving weekend’s record breaking box office, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” lowers the curtains on its Broadway run and the mediocre sales figures of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

March 4, 2013

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

Read more


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

January 9, 2012

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.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

July 25, 2011

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 107: The Pros And Cons Of Cloud Music Services

June 13, 2011

After months of rumors and speculation Apple finally announced their cloud music service last week. Aptly named iCloud, the new service joins similar offerings from both Amazon and Google. Though each of the services has their benefits, no two are exactly alike. Amazon and Google stream music over the Internet and require you to upload your entire music library. Apple doesn’t do any of those things. We dissect the pros and cons of all three services and wonder why anyone really needs them in the first place.

Something else that’s probably not needed is a sequel to “Tron: Legacy” but thanks to a television series spinoff of last year’s sci-fi blockbuster, we’ll probably get one. And it will probably be in 3D like its predecessor even though Dreamworks Animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg is heartbroken over the decline of the format.

The Tony Awards were handed out on Sunday and as we predicted, “The Book Of Mormon” walked off with the most trophies, including Best Musical. But what is a Tony really worth to a Broadway show’s bottom line? We’ll try and find out.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 98: Why New Distribution Models Terrify Hollywood

April 4, 2011

Movie studios, television networks and record labels still haven’t updated their business models to account for video and music streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. Now companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple plan on introducing a whole new group of media subscription services. With premium video-on-demand on the horizon it’s no surprise the entertainment industry is concerned about all these disruptive distribution methods.

One of the biggest players in the current content licensing wars has been Netflix. Showtime and Starz began pulling shows from the video rental giant, while Fox and Paramount offered up popular series and hit movies. Cable operators have also entered the fray by allowing viewers to watch live television on mobile device apps.

The creator of “Mad Men” was embroiled in his own fight with AMC and Lionsgate over the future of the series. In the end, Matthew Weiner was able to reach an agreement on a new contract, though new episodes won’t air until 2012.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 94: Charlie Sheen Is More Entertaining Than The Oscars

March 1, 2011

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards are finally over and, as expected, “The King’s Speech” took home most of the top prizes, including Best Picture. IndieWire’s Anne Thompson gives us her take on all the winners and losers, not to mention the poorly received Oscar telecast. One day before the Oscars Anne was at the Independent Spirit Awards and she reveals what the attendees were up to during the commercial breaks.

Remarkably actor Charlie Sheen just about managed to upstage the Oscars, and he wasn’t even there. Though that may be the only place Sheen could not be found. He continued his oddball antics by calling into radio shows, texting gossip websites and appearing on news programs causing CBS to ceased production of “Two And A Half Men”. The question on everyone’s mind now is just how much money does the network stand to lose by dumping the hit show.

Speaking of money, we discuss the music industry’s top earners in 2010 and how some of them made the list without releasing an album. We review all the week’s entertainment news including Broadway’s new number one show, plans to take “American Idol” voting online and the sale of troubled home video giant Blockbuster.

Read more


Next Page »