Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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Showbiz Sandbox 215: How Many Music Streaming Services Does It Take To Make A Profit?

Just when you thought the online music streaming space couldn’t get any more crowded or competitive, along comes Deezer. The French company already boasts 5 million paying subscribers in 80 countries and now plans to launch in the United States, where Spotify and Pandora are the market leaders. However, none of these companies are actually profitable, which may be why services like Rdio went through a round of layoffs in November and Turtable.fm is shuttering.

Profitability seems to be an issue for Sony Pictures too. The movie studio lost $181 million last quarter leading to the announcement of significant cost cutting measures in the wake of some summer box office duds.

Disappointing earnings and a declining subscriber base are also a problem at Time Warner Cable. As telcos and satellite providers continue to erode their market share, rumors have begun swirling that the second largest cable operator in North America might be acquired by one or more of its competitors, including Comcast.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Thanksgiving weekend’s record breaking box office, “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” lowers the curtains on its Broadway run and the mediocre sales figures of Lady Gaga’s latest album.

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Showbiz Sandbox 209: Why Twitter and Facebook Are Watching You Watch TV

Facebook and Twitter have entered into a fierce battle to hold sway over the conversations taking place around television shows. The social media giants intend to mine the viewing habits of millions of users for data that might be useful to television networks. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, discusses whether social chatter can lead to higher ratings and more advertising revenue.

Meanwhile, as the end of the year nears everyone is talking about awards season. Thanks to the fall film festival circuit and industry previews, virtually all Oscar hopefuls have already been seen and the handicapping of frontrunners has begun. However, it may take a while to view all entries for Best Foreign Language Film that were submitted by a record 76 countries.

The popular music streaming service Spotify turned five this past week and shared a few figures behind its success. One bit of data revealed that of the 20 million tracks hosted by service, 4 million have never even been streamed… not even once.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the rise of a 16-year-old pop star from New Zealand, “Fifty Shades Of Grey” loses a cast member and the Jonas Brothers cancel their upcoming tour.

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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 172: The TV Industry Has Its Head Up Its Ass

Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting, realizes the ways people watch TV have radically and irrevocably changed. He believes the industry has not even remotely caught up to that fact yet. Or, as he puts it, “We have our head up our ass.” We’ll discuss the checklist Reilly provided at recent industry event which touched on every facet of the business.

As the year draws to a close the awards season has begun to heat up as both the Gotham Awards and European Film Awards were handed out last week. We’ll give you a rundown of who the big winners were and which movies are topping the first few year-end critics polls.

In theater news one can make it big with an Off-Broadway production, they just can’t make big money. A few recent hit shows are closing after barely breaking even or never turning a profit.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a list of top earning musicians, Jeff Zucker lands at CNN and why China may surpass the United States as the biggest movie market in the world.

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Showbiz Sandbox 163: Plenty To Feel Good About at Telluride and Toronto

Anne Thompson has just returned from two whirlwind weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. The editor of Indiewire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog is happy to report that, despite all the doomsayers, there is still reason to believe there are plenty of good studio and independent movies awaiting release this year. Thompson joins us for a discussion about this year’s festivities and tells us which films came out ahead as the awards season kicks off in earnest.

Someone who knows a few things about good how to make good movies is Tom Rothman, the Co-Chairman of Twentieth Century Fox Filmed Entertainment along with Jim Gianopulos. Rothman announced he would be stepping down on January 1st, ending his 18-year tenure as head of the studio. Gianopulos, on the other hand, is sticking around to run the studio on his own.

The new TV season ramped up last week with the debut of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show and the season premiere of “Sons of Anarchy” pulling in big ratings.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, two new judges on “American Idol” and why streaming music could be bad for the environment.

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

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.

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