Showbiz Sandbox 373: Is the Academy’s Diversity Fix Misguided?

July 3, 2017

After a controversy that faulted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for being too white, too male and too old, the organization has made great strides to broaden the diversity of its membership over the past two years. During that time the Academy invited over 1,450 new members to join its hallowed ranks, many of whom were women and people of color. Yet there are now grumblings that in the rush to bring in fresh blood the Academy may have lowered its standards for membership.

Major Hollywood studios are less concerned with the Academy’s membership than they are with whether Chinese exhibitors are reporting box office correctly. The MPAA and U.S. trade organizations have forced the Chinese government to let an international firm audit ticket sales for imported films at cinemas throughout the country.

We also review a listener email which goes to great lengths in explaining why satellite radio giant SiriusXM would want to purchase a stake in the online radio streaming service Pandora. The deal is setting up a senior management showdown over the digital music pioneer’s future business model.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Adele is canceling the final two shows of her tour at Wembley, how Sony plans on pressing vinyl records again after nearly 30 years and Oscar winning actress Olivia de Havilland lets FX know she doesn’t appreciate being portrayed in “Feud” by filing a lawsuit.

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Showbiz Sandbox 353: Streaming Giants Raise Ante at Sundance Film Festival

January 30, 2017

As if it wasn’t difficult enough for distributors to find a commercial title amidst the hundreds of films premiering at the Sundance Film Festival each January, video streaming companies such as Netflix and Amazon have entered the bidding causing acquisitions prices to rise for the entire market. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from Sundance where she reports most of the films were good, though maybe not good enough to win any Oscars in 2018.

As for this year’s Oscars, the frontrunners became a little more clear with the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild handing out their awards over the weekend. “Hidden Figures” surprised many by taking home the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture during a politically charged ceremony.

Speaking of industry unions, the Directors Guild of America has signed a new contract with producers that gives its members significant raises in subscription video-on-demand residuals. This is welcome news for directors who missed out on sharing in DVD and Blu-ray revenue over the past decade.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of a brand new vinyl record factory, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new venture and streaming music company Tidal finds a new investor.

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Showbiz Sandbox 338: CBS and Viacom May Wind Up Together After All

October 4, 2016

After originally splitting 10 years ago, Viacom and CBS may once again become a single organization. While a merger may help save Viacom, it doesn’t necessarily benefit the cash rich CBS. Even so, since the Redstone family owns the controlling share of both companies, it seems inevitable the two will once again be joined whether they like it or not.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission has paused its attempt to wrestle the control of television set-top boxes away from cable providers, delaying a vote in order to clarify some of the rules included in the proposed legislation. That means consumers in the United States will still spend $20 billion for at least the next two years renting cable boxes.

At the box office, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” helped reverse the fortunes of Tim Burton’s latest films and even “Deepwater Horizon” may be not be the disaster some had predicted.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why NBC is dumping its “Mail Order Bride”, Disney plans on making a live-action version of “The Lion King” and a huge chunk of Rolling Stone magazine gets sold off.

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Showbiz Sandbox 333: Predicting The Biggest Box Office Flops of 2016

August 31, 2016

Much has been made about the decline in box office this summer, with franchise sequels underperforming and certain pricey movies failing to attract an audience. Kevin Lincoln, a senior editor at New York Magazine and Vulture, takes a look at this summer’s biggest flops and predicts which mega-budget releases might suffer a similar fate as we round out the year.

In China it might be more difficult to know which movies are box office disappointments or crowd favorites since online and mobile ticketing companies have been offering hefty subsidies to cinemagoers in their heated battle for market share. This means the gross of any release is almost always higher than what moviegoers actually paid to see it.

We’ll also dip back into audience figures from the recently completed Summer Olympics in Rio. This time however we have some data about viewership in Europe, Canada and elsewhere. To nobody’s surprise, more people streamed coverage online than ever before.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix international subscribers will soon outnumber those in the United States, a changing of the guard at Twentieth Century Fox gets expedited and the late Prince’s home and music studio is set to become a museum.

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Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

May 2, 2016

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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Showbiz Sandbox 234: Scandal and Politics Invade Hollywood (Again)

May 5, 2014

Two real-life controversies are presently complicating life in Hollywood where studios prefer to make lots of money and ignore complicated social issues or the sometimes tawdry private lives of their executives and talent. The first involves accusations of forcible rape by movie director Bryan Singer. The second involves boycotting a historic Tinseltown hotel over its owners politics.

In less contentious news it appears our prediction about the future of Craig Ferguson as host of the “Late Late Show” was correct, and he will indeed be departing by the end of this year. The host says the decision was entirely his own, despite what it might look like with David Letterman retiring from his show’s lead in, “Late Night”.

Tony nominations were announced last week to honor some of this year’s best and brightest Broadway productions and performers. We give you a rundown of all the front runners as well as a look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the “Star Wars Episode VII” casting announcement, AT&T’s acquisition offer of DirecTV and Ben Affleck’s blackjack trouble.

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Showbiz Sandbox 228: The Dish On That Disney Deal With Dish

March 11, 2014

After months of rancorous public and legal battles with television networks over their ad-skipping Hopper technology, U.S. satellite provider Dish Network reached a landmark retransmission consent agreement with the Walt Disney Company. The deal calls for Dish to disable bypassing commercials for three days after a show originally airs. In return Dish is getting the rights to provide Disney’s networks via the Internet for any future IP-television offering they might develop.

Meanwhile, the city which has become known for producing movies and television shows is under siege. Not from a foreign invader, but rather Los Angeles (and California) is suffering from what is known as “runaway production” thanks to tax incentives being offered in other states and countries.

Austin Texas has also been invaded over the past week by attendees at the annual South by Southwest festival. Neil Young marked the occasion by announcing Pono, his long awaited high-def music player, along with its accompanying store filled with digital tracks for audiophiles.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sandra Bullock’s giant “Gravity” payday, television networks start premiering their shows in summer and why time-shifting made HBO’s “True Detective” a huge hit.

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Showbiz Sandbox 210: Record Labels Look To YouTube As The New Radio

October 21, 2013

Instead of promoting new releases through traditional avenues such as radio and television, record labels are beginning to rely on YouTube as the most effective method for reaching younger audiences. As Dawn C. Chmielewski, an entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times explains, its not just musicians that are getting a boost from this new practice, but also some of the self-made tastemakers who have become YouTube stars.

Television networks are also beginning to love technology, specifically DVRs. Though the industry has long despised the timeshifting devices which allow viewers to skip commercials, executives are once again discovering how they can significantly boost ratings.

Meanwhile, more details are emerging about why the film adaptation of “Fifty Shades of Grey” lost its male lead. Beyond being uncomfortable with his new found stardom, Charlie Hunnam was also pushing for script revisions according to some reports.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why the creators of “South Park” missed the deadline for their latest episode, “The Lion King” becomes Broadway’s first billion dollar production and the hit television series “Glee” announces its final season.

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Showbiz Sandbox 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

August 5, 2013

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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Showbiz Sandbox 189: Contentious CinemaCon; Corporate Coachella

April 29, 2013

At this year’s CinemaCon movie studios showed up in full force to pitch the world’s largest gathering of cinema operators on a bounty of upcoming blockbusters. Behind the scenes however, some of the larger theater chains were haggling with studios over how to divide ticket sales for tentpole releases such as “Iron Man 3”.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, the promoters of the Coachella Music Festival tried to replicate the event over two weekends. They held the same festival, with the same musical acts, on back-to-back weekends. While at times it couldn’t help but seem like a greedy attempt to extract more money from attendees, there were moments of sheer magic that only happen at Coachella.

Then there is Netflix, which after being ridiculed publicly for a series of ill-advised strategic moves in 2011, has managed to turn its ship around. After successfully producing its own hit-content with “House of Cards”, subscribers have returned, profits are increasing and the stock price is on the rise. Netflix CEO is feeling so good he wrote a manifesto on the future of televsion.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Zach Braff’s successful Kickstarter campaign, how Bittorent is helping market a movie and whether “Django Unchained” will ever be released in China.

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