Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 276: Agency Wars Have A Long History in Hollywood

Even in the best of times being a Hollywood talent agent has never been an easy job.  The dog eat dog nature of the agency business has never been more apparent than during the last few weeks when 11 agents suddenly defected from Creative Artists Agency, one of the industry’s leading agencies, to become partners at a rival firm, United Talent Agency. Following in the footsteps of their agents were A-list clients such as Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianiakis, Ed Helms, Melissa McCarthy and Chris Pratt.

This isn’t the first time big shot agents have deserted their agencies for greener pastures and taken their clients with them, nor will it be the last. In fact, CAA was founded in 1975 when Michael Ovitz along with Ron Meyer and several other agents, abruptly departed the William Morris Agency to form their own firm. The now legendary Ari Emanuel did the same thing 20 years later to start Endeavor.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot in how television networks want advertisers to pay for commercial time. Two major conglomerates, Time Warner and Viacom, are moving away from Nielsen ratings and offering to let advertisers pay for the “impact” their ads have through metrics such as increased brand recognition, increased loyalty program registrations and consumer engagement on social media.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jay-Z makes a streaming media play with Tidal, filmmaker David Lynch backs out of “Twin Peaks” reboot, and NBC selects “The Wiz” as its next live televised musical.

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Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 128: Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas

Tis the season for holiday movies and there is no shortage of Yuletide titles to choose from. Thankfully film critic-at-large Alonso Duralde comes to the rescue by sifting through decades of Christmas movies in his book “Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas“. He highlights some of the classic, and not-so-classic, films worth watching during the holidays and explains why this year’s “Arthur Christmas” is having trouble finding an audience.

It’s also the time of year when acclaimed movies and music from the past 12-months begin picking up nominations for annual awards. Last week nominees were announced for the Independent Spirit Awards and the Grammys with many more to come.

Over on Broadway ten shows earned more than $1 million during Thanksgiving week as the theater going season kicks into full gear. The hit musical “Book of Mormon” even turned a profit thanks in part to high ticket prices.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories, including Madonna’s Super Bowl gig, the end of Napster and why musician Elvis Costello doesn’t want you to buy his new boxed set.

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Showbiz Sandbox 119: Thompson On Toronto and Telluride

The Toronto International Film Festival has become a mandatory stop for studios opening awards contenders in the fall. The last four best picture winners at the Academy Awards, including The King’s Speech, all played in Toronto. Along with the smaller, cozier Telluride Film Festival, Toronto is where some films first start picking up awards buzz. Anne Thompson, editor of IndieWire’s Thompson on Hollywood, just returned from both festivals and provides a few details to those of us who weren’t lucky enough to go.

The Emmy Awards were held on Sunday evening and once again “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” won top honors. Though many of the award winners were predictable, there were still a few surprises, such as Melissa McCarthy from the sitcom “Mike & Molly” walking off with lead actress in a comedy. The Emmy telecast itself however was a bit of a “train wreck”.

Netflix continued to top headlines this past week after their stock price plunged 19 percent upon lowering their subscriber projections. Apparently their higher prices have scared off potential customers and caused a few to abandon the video rental service. Now Netflix has announced they will split their business in two, renaming the DVD-by-mail service Qwikster.

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