Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 328: Pokémon Finally Brings Augmented Reality to Life

July 11, 2016

After endless hype everyone is finally getting a chance to experience virtual reality and augmented reality in the best way possible; by playing a game. Pokémon Go was an instant hit when it launched recently for mobile phones. It’s literally and figuratively a game-changer and the first of what’s sure to be many new products making clever use of AR.

Meanwhile, for the first time in years, the Chinese box office is not just slowing down, it’s shrinking. Hollywood movies are dominating the market but that hasn’t stopped the Chinese government from loosening the reins to let in more Hollywood movies just to sell more tickets.

In fact, the deal limiting the number of imported films into China to 34 per year ends in 2017. As Hollywood goes back to the negotiating table with the Chinese government, they will not only be pushing to get more movies into the country, but also a bigger piece of the box office, which is presently limited to 25%, though is often less.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why season seven of “Game of Thrones” is going to be delayed, how music streaming services have surpassed 55 million paid subscribers and the three leads of the Broadway sensation “Hamilton” have taken their final bow.

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Showbiz Sandbox 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 324: Can These 100 People Fix The Academy’s Diversity Problem?

June 6, 2016

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences failed to recognize the work of minority actors and filmmakers for the second year in a row, the organization promised to double the number of minorities within the next four years. The Los Angeles Times has taken matters into their own hands by suggesting 100 industry professionals that could make the Academy more diverse. Tre’vell Anderson, the staff writer who oversaw the project, joins us to explain how the list was compiled and what the response has been.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Disney has scheduled four weeks of reshoots for the Star Wars spin-off “Rogue One”. There is some speculation that Disney felt the film was too dark, however it could just be the standard reshoots multi-million dollar blockbusters often go through.

Sony made some revisions of their own last week to their senior executive ranks. Specifically the heads of both the motion picture and television groups both announced their departure from the studios. What’s noteworthy about the news is that both had worked at the studio for 25 years.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including when the Broadway hit “Hamilton” might lose its leading man, Nintendo revamps Pokemon in China and Amazon expands its content offerings in Japan.

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Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

April 18, 2016

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

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Showbiz Sandbox 314: As Expected, The Oscars Shine A Spotlight On Diversity

February 29, 2016

In a year when the Academy Awards were faulted for a lack of diversity among its nominees, ceremony host Chris Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head on in his opening monologue by mixing pointed criticism with biting humor. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, brings us along as she attends the 88th annual Oscars and explains just how difficult it was to predict this year’s winners.

Mind you, award season never really ends. France handed out their own awards for last year’s top movies and we’ll tell you who won all the big prizes at the Cesars. We even look at the nominations for the Olivier Awards, the London theater equivalent to the Tonys. Literally hours after winning his first Oscar, Mark Rylance was nominated again, this time for his performance in “Farinelli and the King”.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is planning to imitate its online rival Amazon by, oddly enough, opening new brick and mortar stores. And a reissue of the Alex Haley bestseller Roots brings up everything from copyright to the question of when a book goes out of print to ebook pricing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix and other streaming services have decimated video sales, PBS will launch its own cable network and Adele tops the Brit Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 304: The Music of 2015 Was Good, Not Great

December 14, 2015

Sal Nunziato, former co-owner of the shuttered record store NYCD, is now a musician and popular music blogger. He joins us to weigh in on his favorite albums of 2015 and unlike Rolling Stone magazine, Adele’s latest release didn’t make Sal’s list. Who better to get a state of the industry report on the music business?

The end-of-year awards season continued to kick into high gear as the Golden Globes announced their nominees. The SAG Awards may matter more however, since some of the guild’s members actually vote for the Oscars. Even after these nominations the Oscar race continues to be wide open.

With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening this week it’s impossible to avoid news about the eagerly anticipated sequel. Disney’s secrecy over the project reached new heights when the studio held its press junket without first showing the film to the media.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Melissa McCarthy’s sitcom is canceled, “Dirty Dancing” is being adapted into a television musical and Apple presses pause on its plans to offer a live streaming television service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 297: Television Networks Brace For Media Measurement Mayhem

October 5, 2015

In the digital age the viewership of television content has been difficult to track across multiple platforms and devices. The announcement of a game-changing merger between web analytics firm Comscore and the TV and box office data outfit Rentrak suggests a much needed solution for cross-media ratings may soon be available.

The combination of Comscore and Rentrak would finally create a company with the deep pockets and technical expertise to legitimately take on Nielsen, the uncontested reigning king of television ratings for the last several decades. The industry welcomes such competition at a time when advertisers are clamoring for accurate audience measurement across all screens, including mobile devices.

Thanks to the increase in delayed viewing, television ratings have become near impossible to report in a timely manner. Overnight ratings have long been the standard for touting a television program’s success (or failure), but now such numbers can represent less than half a show’s total audience once DVR data is counted. This has made keeping track of who watched what when and on which devices extremely confusing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the plans to the former hit series “MacGyver” a makeover, “Ghostbusters” gets animated and some of the unnecessary recipients among this year’s MacArthur Genius Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 290: Disney Plans A Trip To Star Wars Land

August 17, 2015

Last week the Walt Disney Company held its annual fan club convention, the D23 Expo, which gave the company a chance not only to promote some of its highly anticipated movie releases, such as a live-action “Jungle Book”, but also announce some new additions to their popular theme parks.

Disney plans to leverage its acquisition of Lucasfilm by creating an immersive Star Wars Land at both of its theme parks in North America. The company is also working on a “Toy Story” themed land for both parks as well. This is all on top of the “Avatar” attraction Disney is building in its Animal Kingdom park in Florida.

Meanwhile, the dog days of summer are usually a slow time for live theater productions, especially on Broadway. However this year multiple shows are bringing in million dollar grosses each week, including “Hamilton” a new musical that had the courage to premiere during August.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Sesame Street’s move to HBO, the end of Columbia House and how the late talk show legend Johnny Carson is returning to late night.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

March 23, 2015

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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