Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

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 305: Should “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Box Office Records Require An Asterisk?

December 21, 2015

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records the world over and became the biggest movie opening of all time by earning $529 million. We explain why in countries such as Japan and South Korea, the latest “Star Wars” not only didn’t win the weekend, but in some cases earned less than earlier installments of the franchise. We also look at the breakdown of which formats audiences favored when buying tickets.

George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977 and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989. We weigh in on the annual list of films added to the registry by the Library of Congress, charged with selecting new entrants. It always makes for a fascinating mix; we’ll discuss what made this year’s cut there and why. Hint: It’s not always artistry that counts… and no we’re not looking at you “Top Gun.”

In music news, it turns out online radio services such as Pandora will soon be paying more to license songs. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to prevent her fans from having to pay more to purchase tickets to see her in concert. We’ll tell you about the growing backlash against the secondary market for concert tickets and what some artists are doing about it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how “Star Wars” bumped Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie out of a historic movie theater, Howard Stern signs a new deal with SiriusXM and the list of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

September 7, 2015

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 290: Disney Plans A Trip To Star Wars Land

August 17, 2015

Last week the Walt Disney Company held its annual fan club convention, the D23 Expo, which gave the company a chance not only to promote some of its highly anticipated movie releases, such as a live-action “Jungle Book”, but also announce some new additions to their popular theme parks.

Disney plans to leverage its acquisition of Lucasfilm by creating an immersive Star Wars Land at both of its theme parks in North America. The company is also working on a “Toy Story” themed land for both parks as well. This is all on top of the “Avatar” attraction Disney is building in its Animal Kingdom park in Florida.

Meanwhile, the dog days of summer are usually a slow time for live theater productions, especially on Broadway. However this year multiple shows are bringing in million dollar grosses each week, including “Hamilton” a new musical that had the courage to premiere during August.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Sesame Street’s move to HBO, the end of Columbia House and how the late talk show legend Johnny Carson is returning to late night.

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Showbiz Sandbox 289: In Hollywood Fame and Fortune Is Often Relative

August 10, 2015

There is no dispute that in the entertainment business, just like in any other industry, money is the fuel that keeps the engine running. Yet raising it, accounting for it, paying it back and doling out profits is becoming more complex for media companies. Indeed, making a fortune in show business is anything but easy or straight forward.

Take Relativity Media for example. The upstart movie studio and its brash CEO Ryan Kavanaugh were going to change the way Hollywood operated and movies were made. However now they’ve filed for bankruptcy. We’ll provide some background and explain the details of what could wind up being the largest studio bankruptcy ever.

Movie moguls aren’t the only one’s struggling to mind their dollars and cents. Legendary musician David Byrne wants record labels to be more transparent about where all the money is going in the music business. Meanwhile the Authors Guild has a few thoughts of its own when it comes to copyright and revenue from book sales.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Jon Stewart’s last “Daily Show”, staff turmoil at Rolling Stone magazine and changes afoot in film distribution strategies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

July 27, 2015

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

July 6, 2015

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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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 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

June 22, 2015

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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