Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 232: Coachella Goes Over The Top, Figuratively and Literally

April 14, 2014

In its 15 year history the Coachella has grown from a two day event with a couple dozen bands to one of the world’s most important music festivals with so many VIP luxury amenities that some have argued the high-priced perks have begun overshadowing the actual music. At the same time, Coachella organizers have made it easier than ever for stay-at-home-fans to catch their favorite artists by streaming the whole first weekend live on YouTube.

Speaking of VIP entertainment experiences, there is a brewing battle over premium large format screens at multiplexes all over the world. You might know these types of auditoriums as IMAX, though not for long if your local cinema chain has anything to say about it.

Since it’s tax time here in the United States we uncover a few stories about how movie, television and theatre productions are not only skipping out on their taxes, but in fact getting huge subsidies courtesy of the tax man in most states.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Stephen Colbert’s move to replace David Letterman, the motion picture Academy’s new high profile curator and James Cameron’s complaints about the latest blockbuster movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

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 185: HitBliss Bets You’ll Watch Ads To Get Free Movies

March 11, 2013

HitBliss is a new streaming video service that enables users to earn credit toward popular movies and television shows simply by watching advertising. The catch is all the targeted ads are shown up-front, and viewers must be paying attention or they won’t get the credits needed to purchase or rent videos.

Sharon Peyer is the co-founder of HitBliss and spent four years helping launch the company. In this interview she explains how the service originated, how it works and what the future of HitBliss might look like. Peyer believes consumers are actually willing to watch ads so long as the messages are relevant and they can get something out of it.

It’s no secret that streaming media services are all the rage these days, yet it remains to be seen whether they can be profitable too. Pandora’s latest earnings (or lack thereof) beat analysts expectations sending its stock price soaring. Unfortunately, the royalties they pay for music might start rising, along with the number of competitors like YouTube and Apple looking to enter the market.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pink Flloyd’s 40 year presence in the music charts, Rupert Murdoch’s plans for a television sports network and the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart takes a crack at making a movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 50: Coachella Gets Its Crowd On

April 20, 2010

This year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival was hot, sweaty and packed with great music from more than 120 bands. Though an Icelandic volcano prevented some bands from traveling to Coachella this past weekend, a record setting sold out crowd of 75,000 attended the festival in the Southern California desert. Among them were Todd Martens, the co-editor of the Los Angeles Times Pop & Hiss blog and Lauren Bradshaw, the co-editor of BuzzSugar (not to mention our very own J. Sperling Reich). They stop by to fill us in on which musical acts were worth catching and which should have stayed home.

Meanwhile the superhero comedy “Kick-Ass” opened in movie theaters last Friday, however the film did not live up to it’s name. It barely squeaked into first place over the animated 3D film, “How To Train Your Dragon”. But is “Kick-Ass” really a flop, or have we become jaded when it comes to box office analysis?

As summer draws near, so too does the end of the television season. Which shows will stick around until next fall and which will be looking at the wrong end of the network’s ax? We’ll go over all the shows which are “on the bubble”.  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 49: Hollywood Experiences Premature Sequalization

April 12, 2010

Have you ever wondered why movie studios love to make sequels of hit films? Well, these studios don’t even wait for a film to be released before announcing its sequel. Steve Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times fills us in on the sequel culture that has taken over Hollywood.

Meanwhile, the king and queen of television, Steve Carell and Tina Fey, nudged “Clash of the Titans” out of first place at the box office with their new release “Date Night”.

While Fey may be making a move to the silver screen, the big news of the week was happening in television – cable television no less. Oprah Winfrey announced five new shows that will air on her cable network starting next January, a lineup that left some industry-watchers befuddled. Another TV personality following Oprah onto a cable network is Conan O’Brien. He surprised just about everyone by announcing he would be starting his own late night talk show this fall on TBS.

While analyzing the week’s top entertainment news stories including how celebrities are using Twitter these days. We finish off with a little Inside Baseball in which we try and understand why anyone would want to buy Miramax or MGM.  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 42: Tom Cruise Takes A Pay Cut, And Other Indignities

February 15, 2010

We only talk about “Avatar” for a couple of seconds in this week’s podcast, thank goodness. Instead, we focus on actors campaigning for their Oscars (and a few who aren’t). We also discuss what we call “the 3D movie brouhaha” which has made Jeffrey Katzenberg irate.

In TV news, co-hosts Karen Woodward and Michael Giltz are passionate about the Olympics and the absurdity of “Lost” (even recaps are confusing!) And, after 28 years, MTV is changing its logo to reflect that the channel is no longer just about “music television”. They may be about 10 years too late.

Co-host J. Sperling Reich jumps into one of his favorite topics – new media – and reminds us that this guy named Steve Jobs sits on the board of Disney and is one of the top shareholders. No wonder Disney CEO Robert Igor called the underwhelming iPad “a really compelling device” that could be a game changer. We’ll hold off our thoughts on the new Apple product until we see if it really will change the way entertainment is distributed.  Read more