Showbiz Sandbox 327: The Academy’s Class of 2016 Gets A Lot More Diverse

July 5, 2016

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited a record number of filmmakers, craftsman and executives to join its ranks in 2016, including a record number of women, people of color and international artists. While this helps make its membership more diverse, the Academy itself points out, this amounts to a drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, the Jay-Z digital music service is generating some of its own headlines, literally. Word leaked out, probably from within the company itself, that the streaming music service was in talks to be acquired by Apple. Even though people are consuming more media than ever, the streaming music business may not be a quick route to profitability.

The Chinese box office, on the other hand, has been growing at an astronomical pace over the past few years; 50% last in 2015 alone. However, those gains might be slowing down, as the growth rate has dropped to 20% so far. Maybe the prediction that China would become the biggest movie market in the world by 2017 were premature.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lawsuit over special effects technology which is causing problems for ongoing productions, a host of “Top Gear” crashes and burns, though not literally, and longtime newscaster Nancy Grace will depart CNN.

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Showbiz Sandbox 303: Film Critics Disagree On The Best Movies of 2015

December 7, 2015

The National Board Of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics have all weighed in on the best movies and performances of 2015. We said it was a wide-open awards race and perhaps for the first time in history, none of them agree. On anything.

On the other hand, the Grammy Award nominations seem to have come to a consensus with just about everyone agreeing Kendrick Lamar released one of the best albums of the year. We’ll fill you in on some of the other musicians who racked up Grammy nominations this year.

During Inside Baseball we once again turn to the world of television where new studies are reporting that ad sales are edging downward as advertisers begin to increase their campaign spends on digital media outlets.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Adele’s latest release became the only album to ever sell more than one million copies during two different weeks, Jerry Seinfeld agrees to a long term residency at New York’s Beacon Theatre and Morrissey wins a dubious award for his first novel.

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Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

June 30, 2015

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited over 300 new members to join their ranks this year, many noted not only the number of young women and minorities among the group, but also 36 international invitees. According to Oscars pundit Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter, that’s the highest number of new international members than at any other time in the Academy’s 88-year history.

We explain why the organization is looking to filmmakers and craftspeople from around the world when adding to their ranks, as well as how that might change the demographics of the Academy moving forward. At a time when international box office has never been more dominant and important, it is nice to see the Academy’s membership become a little more diverse.

E-commerce giant Amazon is also making a few changes, especially in the way it pays authors of titles in its monthly book rental offering. Instead of paying writers for every book a user starts but may not finish, the company will pay based upon how many actual pages a subscriber reads.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why NBC and Univision fired Donald Trump, Harry Potter heads to London’s West End and Apple signs a deal with indie record labels for its new music streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 276: Agency Wars Have A Long History in Hollywood

April 13, 2015

Even in the best of times being a Hollywood talent agent has never been an easy job.  The dog eat dog nature of the agency business has never been more apparent than during the last few weeks when 11 agents suddenly defected from Creative Artists Agency, one of the industry’s leading agencies, to become partners at a rival firm, United Talent Agency. Following in the footsteps of their agents were A-list clients such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianiakis, Ed Helms, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pratt.

This isn’t the first time big shot agents have deserted their agencies for greener pastures and taken their clients with them, nor will it be the last. In fact, CAA was founded in 1975 when Michael Ovitz along with Ron Meyer and several other agents, abruptly departed the William Morris Agency to form their own firm. The now legendary Ari Emanuel did the same thing 20 years later to start Endeavor.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot in how television networks want advertisers to pay for commercial time. Two major conglomerates, Time Warner and Viacom, are moving away from Nielsen ratings and offering to let advertisers pay for the “impact” their ads have through metrics such as increased brand recognition, increased loyalty program registrations and consumer engagement on social media.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jay-Z makes a streaming media play with Tidal, filmmaker David Lynch backs out of “Twin Peaks” reboot, and NBC selects “The Wiz” as its next live televised musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 126: Foot In Mouth Disease Sweeps Through Hollywood

November 14, 2011

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 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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

May 2, 2011

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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Showbiz Sandbox 50: Coachella Gets Its Crowd On

April 20, 2010

This year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival was hot, sweaty and packed with great music from more than 120 bands. Though an Icelandic volcano prevented some bands from traveling to Coachella this past weekend, a record setting sold out crowd of 75,000 attended the festival in the Southern California desert. Among them were Todd Martens, the co-editor of the Los Angeles Times Pop & Hiss blog and Lauren Bradshaw, the co-editor of BuzzSugar (not to mention our very own J. Sperling Reich). They stop by to fill us in on which musical acts were worth catching and which should have stayed home.

Meanwhile the superhero comedy “Kick-Ass” opened in movie theaters last Friday, however the film did not live up to it’s name. It barely squeaked into first place over the animated 3D film, “How To Train Your Dragon”. But is “Kick-Ass” really a flop, or have we become jaded when it comes to box office analysis?

As summer draws near, so too does the end of the television season. Which shows will stick around until next fall and which will be looking at the wrong end of the network’s ax? We’ll go over all the shows which are “on the bubble”.  Read more

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