Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

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 250: TV Ratings Have Become Messy, Misleading and Downright Maddening

Picking the winners and losers out of this year’s new television shows has never been more difficult. Just ask Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of TV Media Insights, joins us to explain how DVR’s and on-demand viewing have made overnight TV ratings very problematic. Berman says that these days the number of viewers watching a show when it airs is less important than its total audience during the week that follows.

Those looking for entertainment on a screen larger than the average television can head to movie theaters where they can watch the recently released “Maze Runner” in the new Barco Escape format. The experimental offering wraps three screens around the audience to provide a 270 degree viewing experience.

At the other end of the spectrum there are screens of a less significant size, like those found on the ever increasing number of e-readers. Amazon continues to improve its Kindle line and new the latest gadgets from Apple have excited publishing industry observers. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s $2 billion loss, Stevie Wonder heads out on tour and the twentieth anniversary of the sitcom “Friends”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 217: In Hollywood You’re Nobody Till Somebody Sues You

The entertainment industry is marking the end of 2013 with a flurry of lawsuits all having to do, one way or another, with profit participation. Moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein have filed suit against Warner Bros. over profits from sequels to “The Hobbit”, a property they originally owned. Then there’s the fired creator of “The Walking Dead” who is suing AMC claiming the network owes him tens of millions of dollars for the hit television series.

Filmmaker James Cameron is no stranger to legal battles since he is constantly having to fend off plagiarism lawsuits. Last week the director said he struck a tax deal with New Zealand to film not one, but three “Avatar” sequels in the country.

Golden Globe nominations were announced last week helping solidify awards season frontrunners such as “12 Years A Slave”, “American Hustle” and “Gravity” among others. Keep in mind, only about 90 international entertainment journalists get to nominate and vote for the Globes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new additions to the National Film Registry, the new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how Beyoncé surprised fans with a new album.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 194: Tony Awards Prove Broadway Knows How To Put On A Show

Once again actor Neil Patrick Harris proved he knows how to host an awards show with a dazzling turn as master of ceremonies at this year’s Tony Awards last Sunday. The ceremony provided its share of surprises and dramatic speeches from the likes of Cicely Tyson and pop-star Cyndi Lauper as “Kinky Boots” walked off with six Tonys including Best Musical. Though the telecast may have been poorly directed, it was filled with a mixed bag of performances from this season’s top Broadway shows.

For Broadway play or musical, a Tony can provide a huge boost at the box office, though it’s no guarantee. There has never been a magic formula for investing in the arts which is something JP Morgan and its partners should have looked into before loaning Paramount Pictures a load of cash to finance movies. Now everyone is suing each other after the bank discovered their Hollywood investments weren’t as risk free as they had initially thought.

That kind of inside news is usually reported by the likes of Nikki Finke over at her Deadline Hollywood blog. However, if a scoop from a competing online news source is correct, Finke’s days at Deadline may be numbered. Has Finke’s conentious reputation finally caught up with her, or will a crosstown rival need to eat some crow?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon’s European tax problems, Disney’s digital distribution plans, and the possibly illegal limitations of Microsoft’s new Xbox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 187: Does The Justice System Finally Understand Copyright?

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States dealt another blow to copyright owners in a landmark ruling that confirmed what most consumer advocates had been saying for years; the first sale doctrine does not have geographic boundaries. The court smacked down publisher J. Wiley & Sons’ copyright infringement lawsuit against Supap Kirtsaeng for reselling textbooks he had purchased at a discount in his native Thailand.

While major entertainment companies and trade groups like the MPAA and RIAA may have been on the losing end with the Supreme Court, an appeals court handed them a major victory by ruling in favor of movie studios who claimed that the operator of isoHunt, a large BitTorrent site, was inducing copyright infringement. The court agreed isoHunt was not eligible for safe harbor.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced 25 new recordings that will be added to its official preservation registry. We’ll fill you in on the grab bag of popular music, radio shows, news reports, opera and other recordings that made the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including NBC’s silly decision to oust Jay Leno from The Tonight Show (again), the booming Chinese box office and “Downtown Abbey’s” record ratings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 160: Shedding Some Light On High Frame Rate Cinema

In case you haven’t heard, Peter Jackson is shooting his upcoming adaptation of “The Hobbit” at 48 frames per second (fps). That’s twice the standard 24 fps most films are filmed and shown in. Digital cinema expert C.J. Flynn explains why filmmakers such as James Cameron are urging the industry to adopt high frame rates (HFR). While HFR has its benefits, Flynn highlights the many technology hurdles that need to be overcome before it becomes the norm.

DreamWorks Animation is undergoing changes of its own. The studio signed a new deal with Twentieth Century Fox to release their films after the expiration of their current agreement with Paramount Pictures.

Late-night TV also had some big news last week with ABC announcing it will move Jimmy Kimmel’s show to 11:35 pm, competing directly with Jay Leno and David Letterman. What does this mean for the late shift and more specifically, for the long running news program Nightline, which will be pushed back an hour.

Of course, we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon launching the Kindle in India, Taylor Swift proves she has staying power with her latest single, and NBC’s “The Office” comes to an end after nine seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 100: In Showbiz, As In Life, Size Matters

It’s hard to believe we’ve recorded 100 episodes of Showbiz Sandbox. It’s also hard to believe that a 3D porno (okay, an erotic comedy) could ever smash a box office record set by “Avatar”. But that’s exactly what happened in Hong Kong, where “Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” opened to USD $2.19 million. The producers wanted to screen the film in Imax, but were refused, disappointing Karen Woodward, our guest and former co-host, who says that despite all the rumors, size does matter.

If bigger really is better, then Netflix has nothing to worry about. They are set to become the largest subscription entertainment business in the United States with over 23 million customers, beating out satellite radio and cable television. The same can’t be said about any of the music streaming services that Apple, Google and others are working on. Apparently, negotiating a licensing deal with record labels can be quite difficult. Go figure!

The Coachella Music Festival also took the size issue to heart, adding more space for attendees to enjoy the more than 100 bands which performed this year. J. Sperling Reich was there and tells us which artists are worth checking out (Lauryn Hill), and which shouldn’t quit their day jobs (Odd Future).

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Showbiz Sandbox 70: Digital or Bust – The Future of Reading

It seems a new electronic reading device is released every week. It’s no wonder the sale of e-books has begun to outpace traditional print copies. Ryan Chapman, the online marketing manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, talks about how the industry is dealing with the new technology and in certain instances, using it to their advantage.

Print editions are no longer a problem for Josh Jackson, the editor-in-chief of Paste Magazine. He discusses the recent decision to suspend print publication of the indie pop culture magazine.

In the television world, everyone seems shocked that the latest cast of “Dancing With The Stars” included the likes of Bristol Palin, the daughter of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. They must be putting quotation marks around the word “star” in her case. Maybe her participation will cause politicos to rent a few episodes on their new Apple TV.

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Showbiz Sandbox 59: Movie Piracy Becomes Unthinkable

On the weekend of June 11th the film “Unthinkable” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Sheen rocketed up the Internet Movie Database’s MovieMeter. It wound up at number three beating out such new releases as “Get Him To The Greek” and “Shrek Forever After”. The funny thing is, this film wasn’t playing in theaters and at the time hadn’t even been released on DVD. A pristine pirated version however did leak online.

Cotty Chubb, the producer of “Unthinkable”, joins us to discuss the film, whether the illegal version helped its recent release and ultimately how movie piracy is affecting the entertainment industry.

“Toy Story 3” didn’t have to worry about being pirated when it opened this weekend since most theaters were showing it in 3D. The film earned debuted in first place with a whopping $109 million. That makes it the most successful Pixar opening ever.

Piracy doesn’t seem to be affecting Michael Jackson’s estate either. In the year since the performer’s death his music and film work has earned nearly a billion dollars according to Billboard magazine.

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