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 230: It’s Curtains For Celluloid at CinemaCon

Every spring movie theater operators from around the world converge on Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. During the week-long convention cinema owners are bombarded with industry facts, attendance figures, educational seminars and endless footage from upcoming releases. Over the years advances in digital projection have become an increasingly important topic at the show.

It’s no secret that cinemas have been slowly converting their facilities from traditional 35mm projection to digital. There was no better indication that the days of celluloid film prints are definitely over than the number of vendors at CinemaCon demonstrating the next generation of digital technology, including immersive sound and laser projectors.

When it comes to live theater, there is no doubt that New York’s Broadway and London’s West End are the leaders of the pack. Our own Michael Giltz reviews his previous predictions and investment advice by recapping the past year’s biggest money making productions, as well as a few financial losers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the fall of “Duck Dynasty”, a decline in paid cable subscribers and Oprah Winfrey’s plans for a national tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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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 193: Getting The Scoop On Great Live Music

If you ever wonder whether you should really go see a new hype band perform live or want to warn friends not to bother with a legendary act’s latest reunion tour, then then you’ll be happy to learn about ShowScoop. The new social media website and mobile app bills itself as a “Yelp for concerts”. Company founder Micah Smurthwaite tells us how you’ll never have to see a bad show again and how bands can use the service to help promote their work.

We also have a complete rundown of BookExpo America, the largest North American trade show for book publishers. Held in New York City over the last week, Michael Giltz fills us in on the event, specifically detailing how digital technology has shaken up the industry.

Broadway’s best and brightest will be honored this weekend during the Tony Awards. Unfortunately, attendance at Broadway productions declined six percent over the past season, though revenue remained flat.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Disney’s ambitious long-term release schedule, Dan Harmon’s return to “Community” and a request to shorten the length of movie trailers.

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Showbiz Sandbox 190: How The Academy’s New Voting Rules Will Affect The Oscars?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will now be allowing members to vote in all 24 Oscar categories, including Documentary Short Subject and Foreign Language Film. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large and host of the Oscar Talk podcast, believes the change is long overdue. She explains what the old voting rules were and how these new ones will affect the Oscars moving forward.

The Rolling Stones are also making changes, at least to the ticket prices for their current North American tour. With face-value prices upwards of $600 has the legendary UK band and its tour promoters misjudged fan’s appetites for paying top dollar for big acts? Based on the number of unsold tickets to the first few shows of the tour, the answer is yes.

Meanwhile on Broadway, the Tony Award nominations were announced last week. “Kinky Boots”, “Matilda” and “Lucky Guy” lead the pack with the most nominations. We try to make educated predictions, and blind guesses, as to who might walk home with a Tony in June.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including six billion hours of YouTube videos, trademarking superheroes and why studios don’t want to pay a tax on movie tickets in China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 189: Contentious CinemaCon; Corporate Coachella

At this year’s CinemaCon movie studios showed up in full force to pitch the world’s largest gathering of cinema operators on a bounty of upcoming blockbusters. Behind the scenes however, some of the larger theater chains were haggling with studios over how to divide ticket sales for tentpole releases such as “Iron Man 3”.

Meanwhile, for the second year in a row, the promoters of the Coachella Music Festival tried to replicate the event over two weekends. They held the same festival, with the same musical acts, on back-to-back weekends. While at times it couldn’t help but seem like a greedy attempt to extract more money from attendees, there were moments of sheer magic that only happen at Coachella.

Then there is Netflix, which after being ridiculed publicly for a series of ill-advised strategic moves in 2011, has managed to turn its ship around. After successfully producing its own hit-content with “House of Cards”, subscribers have returned, profits are increasing and the stock price is on the rise. Netflix CEO is feeling so good he wrote a manifesto on the future of televsion.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Zach Braff’s successful Kickstarter campaign, how Bittorent is helping market a movie and whether “Django Unchained” will ever be released in China.

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