Showbiz Sandbox 336: Telluride and Toronto Reaffirm the Importance of Film Festivals

With an ever increasing number of high profile movies competing for awards at the end of each year, film festivals such as those in Telluride and Toronto have never been more important in helping promote a release. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, has just returned from both festivals and gives us a complete rundown of all the films creating the most buzz.

And just as the number of movies worth seeing has grown, so too has the number of television shows. There’s so much good TV these days that in fact, the Emmys are more and more like the Academy Awards, where viewers haven’t even seen most of the Best Picture nominees. Maybe that’s why the Emmys keep honoring the same old shows year-after-year.

Meanwhile, the number of books on offer has grown at least 21% recently thanks to self-publishing. That includes both e-books and print. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter has been responsible for thousands of titles, enough to make them the unofficial fifth largest publisher in North America.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Argentina is sending school-aged children to the movies, how the Rio Olympics proved profitable for NBC after all and the Lady Gaga is booked for the Super Bowl half time show.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 270: The Oscars Need A Reboot

What was billed as the closest Oscar race in recent memory turned out to be predictably dull as “Birdman” flew away with four awards including Best Picture. Not even host Neil Patrick Harris could make them more entertaining. Indiewire’s Anne Thompson attended the ceremony and stops by to give us her thoughts on this year’s Oscar winners and the ceremony itself.

We also take a look at the movies that could potentially be competing for Oscar trophies next year. Filmmakers such as Ron Howard, David O. Russell, Steven Spielberg and even this year’s Best Director winner Alejandro González Iñárritu all have movies set for release.

In other awards prognostication news, now that the Academy Awards are over, we have the Tony Awards for live theater to look forward to. Though once it looked as if there wouldn’t be any musicals to honor, Broadway will be awash in them come springtime. Even better, there are more new musicals than revivals scheduled for this season.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Starbucks plan to stop selling CDs, the Emmys update their rules and finding an ending to “Mission: Impossible 5” has been… well, impossible.

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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 214: Go Big Or Go Home – Why Big Budget Blockbusters Are The Safest Bet In Entertainment

Over the past year filmmakers from Steven Spielberg to Steven Soderbergh have lamented over Hollywood’s love affair with expensive tentpole releases. However, according to Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse the entertainment industry is obsessed with blockbusters because they work. She explains why in a wide ranging interview about her new book on the subject, “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment”.

Not only are the number of big budget films studios churn out on the rise, apparently so is the level gun violence in hit titles. After studying 945 movies released from 1950 to the present day, researchers discovered gun violence portrayed in movies more than doubled during the time frame.

Meanwhile, in the television world most have forgotten about daytime soap operas. That hasn’t kept companies like Prospect Park from trying to keep shows such as “One Life To Live” and “All My Children” alive online. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be getting any help from the network that originally aired the soaps and are now going to court over the matter.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie for Monster High dolls, a new HBO show for John Oliver, pricy reruns for “The Simpsons” and a new manager for the rock band U2.

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Showbiz Sandbox 136: Crafting A Story For The Grammys Through Triumph and Tragedy

Los Angeles Times entertainment reporter Geoff Boucher was on assignment at the Grammy Awards when he heard about the the sudden death of pop star Whitney Houston over the weekend. While still covering music’s biggest night, Boucher was given two hours to write Houston’s obituary for the Sunday paper.

At the same time, David Wild was backstage at the Grammys putting the finishing touches on his script for the telecast. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and best-selling author, Wild had less than 24-hours to work with Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and revise the awards in the wake of Houston’s passing.

After an exhausting weekend Boucher and Wild join us to discuss how this year’s Grammys focused on two voices; one looking to the future with Adele winning six awards and one honoring the past by mourning the fresh tragedy of Houston’s death.

A whopping 40 million people watched this year’s Grammys telecast, though if we were to believe Nielsen few of them were under the age of 24. Brian Stelter of the New York Times stops by to explain why young people are watching television less often.

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Showbiz Sandbox 121: Why 3D Movie Tickets Are About To Get More Expensive

As moviegoers grow more skeptical over paying premiums to see 3D movies you would think now would be a bad time to raise ticket prices yet again. However, if Sony Pictures has their way that’s just what may happen. Last week the studio told exhibitors they would no longer pay for 3D glasses after May 2012 triggering the start of a war between studios and cinemas that may wind up hitting movie audiences right in the wallet. We take a deeper look at the history and reasons behind this ongoing dispute.

Maybe movie buffs should forego the multiplex altogether and choose to stay home with a hot new independent film. Prescreen is an innovative new movie marketing and distribution platform for filmmakers and distributors that can help you find just the right one. Shawn Bercuson, the company’s CEO, joins us to explain what Prescreen is all about.

Facebook has also gotten into the discovery game with Open Graph, a new features which allows users to share experiences with friends in realtime. Now whenever a Facebook user is listening to music on Pandora or watching a movie on Netflix it will broadcast to everyone they are connected with on Facebook. What does Facebook’s entry into media recommendation mean for existing players such as Last.fm, Spotify and Pandora?

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Showbiz Sandbox 116: Will Hollywood Miss Steve Jobs?

Last week’s news that Steve Jobs was stepping down as the CEO of Apple caused headline writers all over the world to work overtime. Sure Jobs became a household name by helping revolutionize personal computing, but he also helped shape the modern entertainment industry with products such as iTunes, the iPod and the iPad. And we shouldn’t forget his role in founding a little animation company called Pixar. We discuss what Jobs departure from Apple means to Hollywood and why some entertainment execs may be secretly relieved to see him exit the stage.

On the other hand, news that filmmaker Ridley Scott was working on a sequel to his sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner” didn’t seem to please anyone. Some showbiz pundits went so far as to call the idea “catastrophically bad”. We’ll explain why.

Over in the world of television, one of the husbands on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” committed suicide causing Bravo to re-edit episodes for the upcoming season. Will the death of Russell Armstrong cause networks to rethink how they handle reality television?

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Showbiz Sandbox 106: A Tony Awards Preview Of Broadway’s Billion Dollar Year

Even without all the news surrounding the troubled production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”, Broadway gave us plenty to talk about over the past year. This season brought more critically acclaimed (and financially successful) productions than during any time in recent memory. Brian Scott Lipton, editor-in-chief of TheaterMania.com, tells us who he thinks will win the year’s top Tony Awards on Sunday evening.

Movie box office is also on the rise after a disappointing first half of the year. Even so, the film grosses being earned in North America are being dwarfed by international box office. We’ll explain why.

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga ruled the album charts with her new release thanks to some help from Amazon.com. A number of artists are finding new and innovative ways to sell their music. In fact, the Kaiser Chiefs are allowing fans to create and sell their own albums with the band’s music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 104: ‘Pirates’ Proves The Importance Of A Global Box Office

Despite earning more than $90 million in North America during its debut weekend, the opening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” did not live up to many industry insiders lofty expectations for the movie. However, considering the film made an additional $260 million in more than 100 international territories, its impossible to consider the latest installment of the Jack Sparrow franchise anything other than a success.

Even so, some analysts believe any muted box office returns for “Pirates” in North America are due to the public’s rejection of 3D movies. Have audiences grown tired of viewing films in 3D? Is the once flashy new technology now passé or is the surcharge for 3D and Imax causing moviegoers to opt-out?

The Cannes Film Festival came to an end this past week with Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” taking home the Palm d’Or. Will winning the festival’s top prize help the film’s financial prospects? If history is any guide, probably not.

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