Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

January 6, 2014

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox Special Episode: To Each Their Own Cannes Experience

May 22, 2013

With selections from world renown filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, Asghar Farhadi, Jim Jarmusch, Baz Luhrmann, Alexander Payne, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh and Jia Zhangke, this year’s Cannes Film Festival is one of the most anticipated in recent memory.

Stephen Garrett is in Cannes this year as both a journalist covering for media outlets such as the New York Observer, and also as the head of Jump Cut, an advertising firm that specializes in producing trailers for foreign, independent and documentary films. Even at the halfway point in the festival he’s seen upwards of two dozen films and joins us to discuss some of the highlights and news items coming out of this year’s Cannes.

On the other hand, filmmaker Andrew Einspruch of Wild Pure Heart Productions is in Cannes to participate in the annual market. As he meets with sales agents, buyers and distributors in an attempt to sell his next movie, Einspruch hasn’t been able to see a single film.

It just goes to show how every attendee at the Cannes Film Festival has a different and unique experience.


Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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Showbiz Sandbox 181: Why The Grammys Telecast Matters More Than Ever

February 11, 2013

While winning a Grammy Award can boost a musician’s record sales temporarily, a knockout performance during the widely viewed ceremony can launch a career. Simply ask Mumford & Sons who stole the show during the 2011 telecast and on Sunday took home the 2013 Grammy for Album of the Year. Will the Lumineers, who performed at this year’s ceremony, follow in their footsteps?

David Wild, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, helped write the Grammy telecast as he has for the past 12 years. He joins us to discuss how the show was put together, working with host LL Cool J and some of the elements that came off without a hitch (projecting images onto Carrie Underwood’s dress comes to mind). Wild even reveals John Mayer’s secret life as a joke writer.

Meanwhile, digital downloads are already outpacing physical sales in music and will surely do so with books and movies in the not too distant future. But what happens when you want to sell off all those media downloads in the now non-existent digital secondhand market? Amazon is trying to patent technology that will make such sales possible.

Of course we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how “The Walking Dead” continues to increase viewership, an end to Don Johnson’s lawsuit over “Nash Bridges” and why some concerts may be sold out before tickets ever go on sale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 165: Neil Young Sings The Praises Of His New Digital Music Format

October 1, 2012

Singer-songwriter Neil Young has never been a fan of digital music.  The rock legend despises the inferior audio quality of MP3s and CDs so much that he released an anthology of his of his music on Blu-Ray; the only medium that could hold digital files large enough to offer the quality Young demanded.  Taking his quest for high fidelity one step further, next year Young will launch Pono, a portable music player and audio platform that uses technology to provide studio quality sound.

Time will tell whether high quality digital audio and Young’s notoriety will be enough to attract consumers to Pono, though the Beatles aren’t waiting around to find out.  EMI is releasing the bands entire catalog of albums on vinyl LPs.  Remember those?  Now all we need is a phonograph to play them on.

Meanwhile the movie awards season has begun to heat up leaving pundits speculating whether Disney might have not one, but three, entries in this year’s Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars; “Brave”, “Frankenweenie” and “Wreck It Ralph”.  How ironic that Seth MacFarlane, creator of the hit animated television series “The Family Guy”, has been tapped to host this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

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Showbiz Sandbox 110: “Transformers” Proves Mediocrity Makes Money

July 6, 2011

When “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” hit theaters over the Fourth of July holiday weekend fans of the franchise were relieved to discover it wasn’t nearly as bad ad the second film. That seems to be a fairly common response to Michael Bay’s latest critic-proof popcorn blockbuster. The highly anticipated movie made nearly $400 million at the worldwide box office in its first week explaining why studios love such formulaic dreck and all but ensuring another sequel.

Last week also saw the sale of MySpace. The once dominant social network Internet site which was once valued at $12 billion was sold by News Corp. at a loss for a mere $35 million. What may be more surprising than anyone actually wanting to buy MySpace is that pop star Justin Timberlake has been tapped to help turn the company’s fortunes around by focusing on music.

Speaking of music, NPR tried to figure out how much it costs to make a hit pop song by examining the finances behind Rihanna’s recent single “Man Down”. Apparently all it takes is $1.1 million in production and promotions costs and 12 minutes to right the lyrics.

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Showbiz Sandbox 68: Who Said Jennifer Aniston Was A Movie Star?

August 23, 2010

Who would have guessed that in this day and age a Sylvester Stallone movie could top the box office for two straight weeks. But Sly’s “The Expendables” finished first with $16 million beating out five new releases including the Jennifer Aniston vehicle “Switched”. The dramedy opened to a disappointing $8.1 million prompting entertainment pundits like Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times to question whether Aniston is truly a movie star.

Generating interest doesn’t seem to be a problem for “The Social Network”, which details the founding of Facebook. More than six weeks before its release the film directed by David Fincher is getting a ton of early Oscar buzz.

Google is also making waves in Hollywood. A book about the company’s early days is being turned into a movie and Google TV has the industry worried that consumers will start canceling their cable subscriptions en masse. According to a story in the New York Times however, Americans have not been cutting their cable cords in the large numbers once predicted. Instead, cable subscriptions have increased.

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