Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 243: United They Stand – SAG-AFTRA Forges Ground-Breaking Contract

Two years after merging their unions, and with their current contracts set to expire within hours, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with studios and producers for a new three-year contract. Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and contributing editor at the Hollywood Reporter, discusses the proposed deal and what improvements actors managed to secure.

Music sales, on the other hand, aren’t improving at all. Nielsen reports that album and digital download sales for the first half of 2014 are down significantly. Could the increase in on demand music streaming be the cause?

Movies aren’t faring much better so far this year, at least not in North America and Germany where box office is down 12% and 8% respectively. Is something amiss with this summer’s blockbuster releases, or is setting new earnings records every year simply unrealistic?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how the characters from “Frozen” are crossing over to television, why cable set-top boxes gobble up so much energy and The Who plan on saying a long, slow goodbye during yet another one of their farewell tours.

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Showbiz Sandbox 241: YouTube Gets Tough With Indie Record Labels

As YouTube gets set to launch its own streaming music service the company is updating existing partnership contacts with record companies. While all of the major labels have signed on, some independent labels are balking at what they consider unfair terms. Now, YouTube is threatening to block the content of any label refusing to enter into its new licensing contracts, a move that is proving hugely controversial and divisive throughout the tech and entertainment industries.

Speaking of contracts, when it came to negotiating the deal for his latest film “Boyhood”, director Richard Linklater gave up a large part of his usual salary to assure he would actually own a piece of the movie it took him 12 years to complete. Will more filmmakers decide to forfeit their upfront fees and begin taking ownership stakes in their projects, or is Linklater’s move a one-off?

Musician Jack White probably isn’t setting any trends either, at least not for vinyl records. His new album sold 40,000 on vinyl during its first week of release though that can probably be attributed to all the nifty extras White included on the vinyl version such as hidden tracks and alternate versions rather than any ongoing interest in the analogue medium.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “Sesame Street” is getting shorter, Netflix plans on producing a talk show with Chelsea Handler and Disney nails down another director for its “Star Wars” franchise.

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Showbiz Sandbox 240: Nikki Finke Is Back! And This Time It’s Personal

An infamous entertainment industry journalist who causes Hollywood executives to break into cold sweats is back on the interwebs. Nikki Finke, the founder and former editor of Deadline Hollywood whom the New York Times once dubbed “a digital-age Walter Winchell”, launched her new website last week. Using her trademark brash and personal writing style, Finke admits she is ready to spill some show business blood.

Amazon appears to be just as aggressive as Finke when negotiating with their suppliers. First the online retailer started making it difficult to purchase books from the publisher Hachette. Now they’re taking the same approach with Warner Bros. movies as they come to a new agreement with the studio. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers we’ll all be buying more of our media on digital platforms rather than physical ones anyway.

The platform the Metropolitan Opera cares most about is the stage. However New York’s opera company is weathering some tough negotiations of its own as it tries to balance big salaries with a shrinking endowment. A recent tax filing has revealed the Met’s inner financial workings, including some of the hefty salaries it pays to employees and performers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Matt Lauer extends his contract at NBC, Bjork gets selected by the Museum of Modern Art and actor Harrison Ford takes that “break a leg” saying to a whole new level on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 239: A Gentleman’s Guide To This Year’s Tony Winners

This year’s Tony Awards spread the love around with many of the Broadway season’s most lauded shows taking home trophies. “A Raisin in the Sun” won several awards including best revival of a play. Actor Bryan Cranston earned a Tony for his portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson “All The Way”, which also won best play. The critical darling “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” walked off with one of the night’s biggest awards, best musical.

Meanwhile Audra McDonald made history by winning her sixth Tony for acting, the most ever won by a performer. There were very few surprises during this year’s ceremony, accept for maybe host Hugh Jackman starting the telecast off by hopping (literally) through a dance routine that lasted four minutes. And even though Neil Patrick Harris didn’t host this year’s ceremony as he has for the past three years, he still managed to make his presence felt by performing a number from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and winning the Tony for best actor in a leading role in a musical.

In the world of movies it appears the day-and-date release of movies both in theatres and online is quickly becoming the new normal, if the practice hasn’t done so already. Now, a new research report out of Europe suggests that overlapping release windows is not eroding cinema attendance.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the latest movie from the Wachowski siblings gets pushed into next year, “Game of Thrones” becomes the the most watched show in HBO’s history and despite critical praise the latest Tom Cruise blockbuster is struggling at the box office.

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Showbiz Sandbox 238: Movies With Subtitles – Cinéma Internationale est Morte

Even though subtitles appear more often in mainstream movies like “Avatar”, “Inglorious Basterds” and “Slumdog Millionaire”, North American audiences aren’t any more comfortable with them than they had been historically. In a detailed piece for Indiewire, Anthony Kaufman reports that foreign language films are struggling at both the U.S. box office and in ancillary distribution channels. Kaufman joins us for an in-depth discussion about the endangered state of world cinema.

We’ve just returned from this year’s Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade show in the U.S. The good news is that the publishing industry is actively engaging in digital instead of being frightened by out. Unfortunately, everyone was concerned that an ongoing contract dispute between publishing giant Hachette and online book retailer Amazon is a sign of a contentious future.

Meanwhile the Tony Awards will be held next weekend honoring the best productions and brightest talent to emerge from Broadway over the past year. Hugh Jackman is hosting the ceremony which will feature performances from Neil Patrick Harris, Idina Menzel and even Sting. The real money however, will be earned by whoever takes home the trophies for Best Musical and Best Musical Revival.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a movie poster that’s a little too risqué for the MPAA, director James Cameron teams up with Cirque du Soleil and the record price NBC is charging for a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl.

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