Showbiz Sandbox 243: United They Stand – SAG-AFTRA Forges Ground-Breaking Contract

July 7, 2014

Two years after merging their unions, and with their current contracts set to expire within hours, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with studios and producers for a new three-year contract. Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and contributing editor at the Hollywood Reporter, discusses the proposed deal and what improvements actors managed to secure.

Music sales, on the other hand, aren’t improving at all. Nielsen reports that album and digital download sales for the first half of 2014 are down significantly. Could the increase in on demand music streaming be the cause?

Movies aren’t faring much better so far this year, at least not in North America and Germany where box office is down 12% and 8% respectively. Is something amiss with this summer’s blockbuster releases, or is setting new earnings records every year simply unrealistic?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how the characters from “Frozen” are crossing over to television, why cable set-top boxes gobble up so much energy and The Who plan on saying a long, slow goodbye during yet another one of their farewell tours.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 135: Is The SAG-AFTRA Merger Good For Hollywood?

February 6, 2012

After years of humoring the idea it looks as if two of Hollywood’s largest labor unions may actually merge. Detailing the history of SAG and AFTRA, Jonathan Handel, a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter and an entertainment attorney, explains the reasons behind why the unions might want to merge and what it all means for the entertainment industry.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLVI proved to be another ratings winner and as in previous years, is expected to be the most watched show of the year, if not all-time. Were audiences tuning in for the game or to watch Madonna’s extravagant half-time show?

Despite gaining a million subscribers last year the minuscule royalties paid by Spotify to independent musicians barely budged at all. Some industry veterans have grown weary of subscription music services and are advising they be used for promotional purposes only.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new CEO at Sony, why you won’t see Bon Iver perform at the Grammys and how Facebook might turn U2’s Bono into a billionaire.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 99: How To Fix Hollywood’s Obsolete Residual Payments System

April 11, 2011

Labor and contract negotiations are a constant concern in Hollywood. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel is a contributor to The Hollywood Reporter and has written a book about the industry’s labor disputes,  “Hollywood on Strike!: An Industry at War in the Internet Age“. The book grew out of his coverage of the labor unrest that began with the 100 day Writers Guild strike leading to turmoil in all union negotiations over the next two years. Handel proposes a new formula for residuals that could help avoid future strikes.

Blockbuster, the beleaguered video chain which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, was auctioned off to Dish Networks.  How the acquisition will benefit the satellite television provider remains to be seen.

The Grammy Awards are getting trimmed down as they cut more than 30 categories and combine a number of others.  Music industry professionals are split over whether the changes will help the awards show.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 78: The Fight Over Streaming Television Online

November 8, 2010

As if broadcast and cable networks didn’t have enough to worry about with online streaming offerings from Apple and Google, they now have startups such as ivi.TV to contend with. The company recently launched an online service that retransmits signals from broadcast television stations in New York and Seattle with more cities coming online soon. Though networks and movie studios are trying to shut the company down, its CEO, Todd Weaver, explains that ivi.TV is operating legally under current copyright laws.

Another media company dealing with legal issues is MGM who filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Fortunately the restructured studio won’t have to worry about an actor’s strike since the two unions representing thespians agreed to a new contract with studios and networks. The Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel fills us in on the key deal points as well as what the news means for writers and directors as they begin their own contract negotiations.

This week also marks the return of Conan O’Brien to late-night television as he kicks off his new show on TBS.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 76: Taking On The Hobbit And Ticketmaster Down Under

October 25, 2010

Our friends Down Under generated a lot of entertainment news this past week. In New Zealand a union boycott of “The Hobbit” may cause Warner Bros. to relocate the production to another country. Director Peter Jackson has publicly opposed such a move, but as the Hollywood Reporter’s Jonathan Handel explains, this may just be Warner Bros. way of negotiating better government tax subsidies.

Over in Australia, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has launched Foxtix, a live event ticketing service aimed at capturing a share of Ticketmaster’s business. Taking on Ticketmaster is a difficult and expensive fight, but Adam McArthur, the head of Foxtix, fills us in on how the company will differentiate itself in the market.

Former Australian native and current Hollywood pariah Mel Gibson was all set to make a comeback with a cameo in “The Hangover 2”, but Warner Bros. decided he was just too much trouble and opted for Liam Neeson.

Meanwhile, in television news the Fox network pulled its programming from Cablevision’s channel lineup over a retransmission fee dispute. Don’t worry, Cablevision’s customers were still able to follow the baseball playoffs through Twitter posts from the Federal Communications Commission. Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 36: Can “Avatar” Beat “Titanic”? Heck No!

January 7, 2010

“Avatar” continues its takeover of the box office, while “The Hurt Locker” appears to be taking over the awards season. James Cameron’s 3D labor of love entered the list of top 10 grossing films of all time and may be poised to become the highest grossing movie ever, a title now held by another Cameron film, “Titanic”. “Avatar” is now one of only five films to ever earn over a billion dollars world-wide.

Now the prognostication begins about whether “Avatar” (and Cameron) will be nominated for an Academy Award? His ex-wife’s movie “The Hurt Locker” certainly seems to be headed that way. Director Kathryn Bigelow is earning raves for the film and she is being being heavily favored to be the first female to win a Best Director Oscar. Between Bigelow and Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated”), female directors, or at least the discussion of their recent success, is the topic du jour in Hollywood.

Another favorite topic at the beginning a year is reflection and prediction. What were the top reviewed movies of the decade? Did you see any of them? Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 22: The Trouble With Indie Films, Roman Polanski and Hollywood Guilds

September 28, 2009

When the Toronto Film Festival concluded last week only one of its official selections had been picked up for distribution. This touched off a string of articles and blog posts from the likes of Anne Thompson and Roger Ebert on the state of the independent film industry. One of the more interesting blog posts came from indie producer Ted Hope who has produced over 60 films in a career which spans three decades. He joins us on this week’s episode with independent film producer Christine Vachon.

Hope has worked with such filmmaker as Ang Lee, Michel Gondry, Hal Hartly, Todd Solondz, Ed Burns, Todd Field and Tamara Jenkins while producing films like “In The Bedroom”, “The Ice Storm”, “Eat Drink Man Woman”, “The Brother’s McMullen”, “American Splendor”, “21 Grams”, “Happiness” and “The Savages”. His production company This Is That has produced more than 17 films since it was founded in 2002.

Vachon has also produced an astounding number of indie films, including Todd Haynes’ “Poison” and “Far From Heaven”, Larry Clark’s “Kids”, John Cameron Mitchell’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, Todd Solondz’s “Storytelling” and Kimberly Pierce’s “Boys Don’t Cry”. Along with Pamela Koffler, Vachon has been running the production company Killer Films for the 14 years.  Read more