Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

When theater owners and film distributors from around the world convened last week for CinemaCon in Las Vegas they were presented with a slate of upcoming blockbusters and cutting edge innovations which forecast an optimistic future for the industry. After ending last year with the most depressed box office returns in recent memory, 2015 is shaping up to break all records with at least four films potentially grossing more than a billion dollars.

Adding to the optimistic outlook are emerging technologies that enhance the experience of going to the cinema. Upgrades such as immersive sound, laser projection and high dynamic range may help lure certain demographics back to theaters. Teenagers and young adults, for instance, have seen declining attendance since 2007 as the number of on-demand entertainment options began expanding.

Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast called off its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after government agencies informed the company they would actively work to block the merger. Regulators believed the deal, which many feared but felt would ultimately be approved, might allow Comcast to dominate not just cable television, but more importantly high speed Internet access.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of “Sabado Gigante”, how WikiLeaks got involved in the Sony cyberattack and Netflix just keeps growing.

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Showbiz Sandbox 230: It’s Curtains For Celluloid at CinemaCon

Every spring movie theater operators from around the world converge on Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. During the week-long convention cinema owners are bombarded with industry facts, attendance figures, educational seminars and endless footage from upcoming releases. Over the years advances in digital projection have become an increasingly important topic at the show.

It’s no secret that cinemas have been slowly converting their facilities from traditional 35mm projection to digital. There was no better indication that the days of celluloid film prints are definitely over than the number of vendors at CinemaCon demonstrating the next generation of digital technology, including immersive sound and laser projectors.

When it comes to live theater, there is no doubt that New York’s Broadway and London’s West End are the leaders of the pack. Our own Michael Giltz reviews his previous predictions and investment advice by recapping the past year’s biggest money making productions, as well as a few financial losers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the fall of “Duck Dynasty”, a decline in paid cable subscribers and Oprah Winfrey’s plans for a national tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 211: Why Movie Studios Are Playing Musical Chairs With Release Dates

There was a time if a Hollywood studio pushed back the release date for one of its eagerly anticipated titles it signaled the movie might be in trouble. If there was ever a sign that such stigmas no longer apply when delaying a release date, one need look no further than this year. An overly crowded and competitive awards season has meant the release dates for a number of high-end hopefuls have been wisely pushed into 2014, including “Monuments Men”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Distributors in China, Japan and South Korea may soon have to start worrying about release dates too. Box office is surging to record levels in Asia, thanks not to Hollywood blockbusters, but rather homegrown productions.

If it were up to consumer electronics manufacturers, we’d all be watching movies at home on our new 4K Ultra HD televisions. Broadcasters, burned by the original conversion to HD and a string of 3D experiments, want to know who is going to foot the bill this time around.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new, yet familiar, writers taking on the “Star Wars” sequels, YouTube gets into the music streaming business and Netflix wants to make original movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 195: Hollywood Exploits 9/11 Imagery For Its Implosive Blockbusters

As “Man of Steel” sets the worldwide box office aflame, the latest Superman reboot also serves as yet another example of a Hollywood blockbuster exploiting the imagery of 9/11 for apocalyptic purposes. Kyle Buchanan, the Movies Editor at New York Magazine, would like to see filmmakers stop relying on meaningless urban destruction.  He joins us to discuss his recent article calling for an end to the “orgy of gratuitous building-battering” in big budget movies.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two filmmakers quite familiar with blockbuster movies.  Now, the directors who helped launch the modern day tentpole release are predicting an “implosion” for Hollywood, along with a handful of other pessimistic prognostications.  We’ll tell you what they had to say in a recent panel discussion.

Last week also saw Apple finally get into the music streaming business with the announcement of iTunes Radio.  Only time will tell whether Apple will be able to compete with Pandora, Spotify and all of the other existing players in the space, though we’re not overly impressed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a legal victory for Hollywood interns, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to “The Terminator” and The Muppets head to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 133: Oscars Celebrate The Past; Sundance Discovers The Future

This year’s Oscar nominations have finally been announced and they are full of surprises. Actors and actresses which seemed like shoe-ins for a nomination were completely overlooked. Films that nobody thought would be considered for Best Picture wound up in the list of nine nominated titles.

Meanwhile up in Park City, Utah this year’s Sundance Film Festival is underway. We’ll go over all the movies that have festival goers (and acquisitions executives) buzzing as well as fill you in on why indie films may finally reach wider audiences.

“American Idol” returned to the airwaves to lower ratings. Ryan Seacrest, the show’s host, may not care though since he took another step last week toward becoming the next Dick Clark by partnering with Mark Cuban and AEG on a new cable television network.

We also cover some of the week’s top entertainment headlines including Adele’s continued dominance of the music charts, the death of controversial anti-piracy legislation and the shuttering of Megaupload over copyright infringement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 132: Moviegoing Is Alive And Well In The Modern Age

According to mainstream media, nobody goes to the movies anymore. However news about the death of movie theaters has been greatly exaggerated according to John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theater Owners. In fact, statistical trends for the last three decades show that movie attendance is actually on the rise. In a discussion that touches on everything from the price of tickets to digital cinema technology, Fithian reveals the truth behind today’s movie going experience.

Meanwhile, the Golden Globes handed out this year’s awards. The big story wasn’t necessarily who won awards, but rather which stars were victims of host Ricky Gervais’ scathing humor. Ironically the comedian managed to steal the spotlight again by being less insulting than last year… go figure!

There is some fresh news about two antipiracy bills making their way through Congress now that the Obama administration says they won’t support them.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Spin magazine intends to review new music releases, a slight delay for the “Avatar” and Hulu’s plan for original content.

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