Showbiz Sandbox 322: Cannes Film Festival Spurs Critical Debate

May 24, 2016

This year’s Cannes Film Festival ended over the weekend with the awarding of the Palm d’Or, the festival’s top prize, to an unlikely, albeit quite solid, movie from director Ken Loach. A critically panned movie from filmmaker Xavier Dolan was given the runner up award, the Grand Prix, leaving many in Cannes baffled over how the jury made its selections. However festival director Thierry Fremaux has always said, Cannes is not set up for critics.

The Broadway season also came to a close last week earning a record $1.3 billion in ticket sales. Musical productions took in most of the revenue over the past year, though it was “The Lion King” and not “Hamilton”, which only opened in August, which ruled the box office.

Over at HBO Michael Lombardo, the longtime head of programming for the premium cable network is stepping down, whereas at Viacom Sumner Redstone has stirred up a hornets nest by ousting his longtime protogé, the company’s chief executive, from the trust that will eventually control the company.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including whether the wave of summer blockbusters will prove to be too much competition, rumors of Adele’s massive record deal and Bill Cosby gets his day in criminal court.

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Showbiz Sandbox 319: The Changing Tide of Music Distribution

April 25, 2016

Almost three years after Beyoncé made a big splash by releasing a secret album via iTunes, the pop star has snuck up the world once again with her latest work, a video album called “Lemonade”. This time however Beyoncé was strategic in how she distributed her album, premiering it with an HBO special, then exclusively to the streaming music service Tidal, before ultimately turning back to iTunes. More and more, big name acts are controlling how and to whom their music gets distributed.

Multi-genre musician Prince was way ahead of his time when it came to controlling how his music reaches the world. The legendary artist died suddenly last week leaving behind a lifetime of work a great deal of which was never released. We discuss the many fascinating ways the unexpected death of Prince was covered by the media and his sometimes unique distribution methods.

We’ll also take a look at the introduction of a new cinematic camera that has the potential to revolutionize filming and post-production by allowing to filmmakers “to effectively capture the color, direction and placement of every ray of light”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including some behind the scenes drama at the morning talk shows, why China shut down some of the Apple iTunes stores and how Hollywood is making its way to West Africa.

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Showbiz Sandbox 312: Scripting Those Perfect Grammy Moments

February 16, 2016

With nominees representing a wide range of genres including pop, country, hip-hop, R&B and rock, this year’s Grammy Awards had a little something for everyone. David Wild, one of the writers responsible for this year’s Grammy telecast and a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, takes a few minutes from his busy schedule to discuss Rihanna’s no-show, Kendrick Lamar’s electric performance and more.

It would seem that anyone who wasn’t watching the Grammys was at the movie theater watching “Deadpool”. The R-rated superhero movie that transformed from a comeback vehicle for Ryan Reynolds to a box office hit to a phenomenon, all in the space of five days.

Meanwhile China was also breaking box office records thanks to the Golden Week holiday associated with Chinese New Years. Plus, the Oscars are getting closer and we’ll report on the latest buzz generated by the BAFTAs and the WGA Awards.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an autobiography from rocker Bruce Springsteen, Disney is sending “Frozen” to Broadway and why media stocks have suddenly taken a nosedive.

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

June 16, 2014

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 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

May 19, 2014

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 233: Net Neutrality – Is The Fat Lady Singing?

April 28, 2014

The concept that all data sent via the Internet should be treated equally has allowed services such as YouTube and Netflix to develop and prosper on a level playing field. However a new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission would effectively kill net neutrality by allowing companies to pay for faster access. Will the public revolt in mass protest or will big business ultimately prevail?

A similar question is being asked as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether Aereo infringes on broadcaster’s copyright by retransmitting over-the-air television signals via the Internet, or if the company’s services are legal under current law. The future of television may hinge on the answer.

There seems to be no dispute over the state of opera these days as many regional companies are suffering from a number of problems, not the least of which is declining ticket sales. Most recently the San Diego Opera announced it would be shutting down after running out of money.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Amazon’s deal to stream past HBO series, Ryan Seacrest stays with “American Idol” and why record labels are suing Pandora… again.

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Showbiz Sandbox 99: How To Fix Hollywood’s Obsolete Residual Payments System

April 11, 2011

Labor and contract negotiations are a constant concern in Hollywood. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel is a contributor to The Hollywood Reporter and has written a book about the industry’s labor disputes,  “Hollywood on Strike!: An Industry at War in the Internet Age“. The book grew out of his coverage of the labor unrest that began with the 100 day Writers Guild strike leading to turmoil in all union negotiations over the next two years. Handel proposes a new formula for residuals that could help avoid future strikes.

Blockbuster, the beleaguered video chain which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, was auctioned off to Dish Networks.  How the acquisition will benefit the satellite television provider remains to be seen.

The Grammy Awards are getting trimmed down as they cut more than 30 categories and combine a number of others.  Music industry professionals are split over whether the changes will help the awards show.

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