Showbiz Sandbox 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 313: Is Kanye West Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

Kanye West is making headlines for exhibiting manic behavior around the upcoming release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Is it erratic behavior or a canny promotional tactic? And is West’s album actually finished, or are the many changes he’s making before its official release all part of an intentional, yet public, artistic process.

In more serious news, music heavyweights are beginning to speak out about the court battle between artist Kesha and music producer Dr. Luke. The musician is attempting to break free of a record contract which ties her to a man Kesha says “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her for years.

Meanwhile, we’re going to look at a worldwide box office phenomenon that has set records in the United States and around the world. Not “Deadpool”, but rather China’s “The Mermaid,” which had the highest per screen average of any movie in North America this past week.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new owner of movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon’s plans to distribute Woody Allen’s next movie and new rules for the Eurovision song contest.

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Showbiz Sandbox 291: Media Companies Come Clean On Cord Cutting

After years of denying cord cutting was happening on any level, several large media companies are finally confessing that cord cutting is a growing trend which may soon affect their bottom lines. After decades of steady growth, cable operators are now beginning to see flat or declining subscriber numbers as new content streaming services pop-up.

Clearly, the business models the television industry has relied on in the past are evolving rapidly, more so than movies or theater or even publishing at the moment. Yet some industry insiders believe the cable cord isn’t being cut, but that it’s slowly fraying as the definition of what it means to be a television network has changed.

Some media companies aren’t waiting to study market indicators before making strategic moves. Last week NBCUniversal made a $200-million investment in the online news outlet Buzzfeed, leaving many to wonder how this could possibly benefit the network.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how boy band One Direction wants to take a break, why Spotify wants to breach your privacy and Cirque du Soleil is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 276: Agency Wars Have A Long History in Hollywood

Even in the best of times being a Hollywood talent agent has never been an easy job.  The dog eat dog nature of the agency business has never been more apparent than during the last few weeks when 11 agents suddenly defected from Creative Artists Agency, one of the industry’s leading agencies, to become partners at a rival firm, United Talent Agency. Following in the footsteps of their agents were A-list clients such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianiakis, Ed Helms, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pratt.

This isn’t the first time big shot agents have deserted their agencies for greener pastures and taken their clients with them, nor will it be the last. In fact, CAA was founded in 1975 when Michael Ovitz along with Ron Meyer and several other agents, abruptly departed the William Morris Agency to form their own firm. The now legendary Ari Emanuel did the same thing 20 years later to start Endeavor.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot in how television networks want advertisers to pay for commercial time. Two major conglomerates, Time Warner and Viacom, are moving away from Nielsen ratings and offering to let advertisers pay for the “impact” their ads have through metrics such as increased brand recognition, increased loyalty program registrations and consumer engagement on social media.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jay-Z makes a streaming media play with Tidal, filmmaker David Lynch backs out of “Twin Peaks” reboot, and NBC selects “The Wiz” as its next live televised musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 192: Cannes Serves Up A True Blue Masterpiece

It’s safe to say the 2013 edition of the Cannes Film Festival did not disappoint. The jury, headed by filmmaker Steven Spielberg, awarded “Blue Is The Warmest Colour” with the Palm d’Or, the festival’s top prize. It seems fitting that a film featuring a lesbian love affair (not to mention graphic sexual scenes) should win big in a year when France legalizes gay marriage. That the film may be considered a masterpiece over time doesn’t hurt either.

In fact, there was little to complain about at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, except for maybe the rainy weather. We’ll fill you in on some of the highlights as well as discussing how Angelina Jolie’s announcement regarding her double mastectomy has caused an uproar in the medical community… in a good way.

Our host, Michael Giltz, has soft-launched a new website for booklovers. Still in beta stage as it prepares for an official launch, BookFilter.com is designed to help visitors discover what titles are being released and what might want to read next.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including liner notes for digital downloads, Zach Braff teaches Woody Allen about crowdfunding and Amazon’s plan to make fan fiction legit.

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Showbiz Sandbox 149: Cannes Falls For “Amour”

This year’s Cannes Film Festival concluded with “Amour”, a film by Austrian director Michael Haneke, winning the Palme d’Or. The movie about an elderly couple in Paris features two renown French actors and was a hit with festival audiences. Anne Thompson from Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog says the jury rewarded many of the noteworthy films at this year’s festival, though entries with stars like Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman were rather disappointing.

Speaking of winners, last week Phillip Phillips was crowned the winner of this season’s “American Idol”. The big loser however may be the singing competition show itself, since it is no longer the most watched television show in the nation, a title it held for a historic seven years. That honor is now held by Sunday Night Football.

Apple rather convincingly shredded the antitrust suit tbe Justice Department filed against them and top publishers over the price fixing of e-books. Apple’s response points out a number of innacuracies in the suit and manages to bolster their own case, while notably not helping the publishers with their defense.

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Showbiz Sandbox 128: Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas

Tis the season for holiday movies and there is no shortage of Yuletide titles to choose from. Thankfully film critic-at-large Alonso Duralde comes to the rescue by sifting through decades of Christmas movies in his book “Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas“. He highlights some of the classic, and not-so-classic, films worth watching during the holidays and explains why this year’s “Arthur Christmas” is having trouble finding an audience.

It’s also the time of year when acclaimed movies and music from the past 12-months begin picking up nominations for annual awards. Last week nominees were announced for the Independent Spirit Awards and the Grammys with many more to come.

Over on Broadway ten shows earned more than $1 million during Thanksgiving week as the theater going season kicks into full gear. The hit musical “Book of Mormon” even turned a profit thanks in part to high ticket prices.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories, including Madonna’s Super Bowl gig, the end of Napster and why musician Elvis Costello doesn’t want you to buy his new boxed set.

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Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

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Showbiz Sandbox 83: The Social Network Tops Critics Year-End Picks

Even the latest “Chronicles of Narnia” film can’t steal the spotlight from “The Social Network”. David Fincher’s little Facebook movie is the toast of critics groups throughout the country with most selecting it as the year’s best film. “Blue Valentine” may be getting overlooked when it comes to top awards, but the MPAA decided to downgrade the film’s NC-17 rating to a more marketable R.

Spotify, Europe’s leading online music service, still hasn’t launched in the United States thanks to licensing disputes with the record labels. We’ll just have to be satisfied with watching music videos on YouTube where artists like Rhianna, Eminem and Justin Bieber rake in millions from advertising.

Disney and ABC aren’t relying on YouTube to make money online with their television shows. Instead, they struck a lucrative licensing deal with Netflix who will stream the shows to to paying subscribers.

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Showbiz Sandbox 82: Training For The Awards Season Marathon

The end of the year always has more “best of” lists and awards show news than any media outlet knows what to do with. Over the past week nominees were announced for the Independent Spirit Awards, the Grammys and the Annies (for animated films). In Europe, they’ve already started holding awards ceremonies, with “The King’s Speech” cleaning up at the British Independent Film Awards and “Ghost Writer” topping the European Film Awards.

Competing at next year’s awards shows will likely be a few films selected for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival which will take place in January. Some outlets noted that the festival’s competition selection didn’t have enough star driven films, but artistic director John Cooper points to the premieres section which has been programmed with films sure to keep the Park City paparazzi quite busy.

In television news, it appears the degree to which networks and advertisers trust Nielsen’s rating system is decreasing by the day. They claim Nielsen’s method of acquiring its numbers is antiquated.  Meanwhile, on Broadway, all anyone wants to talk about is “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”. While most avid theater-goers believe the super hero musical is going to be awful, they all still can’t wait to see it.

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