Showbiz Sandbox 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 289: In Hollywood Fame and Fortune Is Often Relative

There is no dispute that in the entertainment business, just like in any other industry, money is the fuel that keeps the engine running. Yet raising it, accounting for it, paying it back and doling out profits is becoming more complex for media companies. Indeed, making a fortune in show business is anything but easy or straight forward.

Take Relativity Media for example. The upstart movie studio and its brash CEO Ryan Kavanaugh were going to change the way Hollywood operated and movies were made. However now they’ve filed for bankruptcy. We’ll provide some background and explain the details of what could wind up being the largest studio bankruptcy ever.

Movie moguls aren’t the only one’s struggling to mind their dollars and cents. Legendary musician David Byrne wants record labels to be more transparent about where all the money is going in the music business. Meanwhile the Authors Guild has a few thoughts of its own when it comes to copyright and revenue from book sales.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Jon Stewart’s last “Daily Show”, staff turmoil at Rolling Stone magazine and changes afoot in film distribution strategies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 249: Why Film Festivals Are More Important Than Ever

Anne Thompson, an editor at Thompson on Hollywood and Indiewire, just spent the past two weeks at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals before she heads off to the New York Film Festival. Thompson takes us through some of the noteworthy films we’ll be seeing in coming months and discuss the important role festivals play in creating buzz before a movie’s commercial release.

The competition for landing premieres of noteworthy titles has become so fierce that Toronto switched up its programming this year to give less prominence to any film screening a week earlier at Telluride. One aspect of each festival which is unlikely to change is their reputation for selecting films that go on to win Best Picture Oscars.

While fall festivals might be the talk of the film industry, television executives have been preoccupied with their over-the-top strategies. As audiences switch to OTT offerings from Amazon to Roku, networks are experimenting with direct-to-consumer offerings while contending with increasingly meaningless overnight ratings.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including opting-out of a free U2 album, Microsoft picks up “Minecraft” and Netflix’s invasion of Europe.

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Showbiz Sandbox 218: Reports of Hollywood’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Beating up on the film business seems to be all the rage lately, as witnessed by the New York Times recently suggesting the industry was in “survival mode”. Yet the worldwide box office is about to break another all-time record and home video revenue actually went up in 2012. With grosses rising in several sectors, including television, why is there still a debate over the health of the business?

Speaking of debates, just about everyone this past week seemed to have an opinion about the controversial comments made by Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the family that runs the Louisiana hunting supply company depicted in the A&E reality series “Duck Dynasty”. Was the network too quick in their response by suspending Robertson?

Amazon and Target also acted quickly this past week when they announced they would not be selling physical copies of Beyoncé’s latest album after, in a surprise move just days before, she released it exclusively on iTunes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, Shia LaBeouf’s plagiarism and how talent agencies are relying on sports to grow their business.

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Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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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 191: The Misunderstood Math Behind Movie Ticket Prices

The average cost of a movie ticket dropped to $7.94 in North America during the first quarter of 2013. That’s according to the National Association of Theatre Owners, the trade group that keeps track of such figures. Patrick Corcoran, the vice president and chief communication officer of NATO, explains how the average ticket price is calculated and the perennial complaint that such a low amount can’t possibly be correct.

Meanwhile, television networks have been working overtime putting together their schedules for next season. That also means they’ve been making public which shows didn’t make the cut, a.k.a. got canceled. Did your favorite show survive for another season, or did it go the way of series such as “Smash”, which was axed as had long been predicted.

Such bad news isn’t something the Rolling Stones have to worry about. According to the legendary rock group’s concert promoter reports that tickets to shows aren’t selling is completely untrue. In fact, tickets were priced at an exorbitant $600 on purpose to keep the secondary market at bay.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including YouTube’s pay channels, Barbara Walter’s retirement and legislation that calls for a la carte cable offerings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 183: Going Inside This Year’s Oscars With Anne Thompson

As one of the hosts of the Oscar Talk podcast and the editor of Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog, it’s no wonder Anne Thompson beat out most other award season experts by correctly predicting 19 out of 24 winners at this year’s Academy Awards. Thompson attended the Oscar ceremony in-person and confirms that Seth MacFarlane was no better live than on television.

Less than 24-hours after “Argo” won Best Picture and shortly after returning from the Governor’s Ball, Thompson recaps a whirlwind weekend that had her hobnobbing at the Spirit Awards awards on Saturday then walking the red carpet at Sunday’s Oscars. Rough life, to be sure.

In television news, it turns out most the of the hour-long network dramas premiering at mid-season have failed to find an audience. Maybe now that Nielsen is including online streaming in their ratings viewership will rise for some of these shows, but we wouldn’t count on it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Billboard revamping music charts to include YouTube views, Shia LaBeouf drops out of his Broadway debut and Google’s plans for music streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 152: Rupert Murdoch Shows Off His Split Personality

Last week, in-between sending Twitter posts about the break-up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, News Crop. chairman Rupert Murdoch announced he would be splitting one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates into two different companies; one for the publishing entities, the other for the much more profitable film and television operations. Could the tycoon be trying to focus attention on something other than the ongoing phone hacking scandal he is embroiled in?

Speaking of scandals, Charlie Sheen returned to television with a bang (no pun intended). His new series, “Anger Management” set viewership records for a scripted comedy series. If the first 10 episodes prove to be a ratings hit, FX has promised to produce another 90 episodes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 professionals to become members and it looks like they’re becoming more of an equal opportunity group. In fact, they have finally included hair dressers in the makeup category at the Oscars, renaming it Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news, the “Today” show’s continuing troubles, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night television and the record breaking ratings for Eurocup 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 143: “Mommy Porn” Is Hollywood’s Hot New Trend

Hollywood studios spent this past week waging a bidding war for a book derived from fan fiction stories on “Twilight” websites. Universal Pictures wound up paying an estimated $5 million for E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey”, an erotic novel that has become a best selling phenomenon despite only being published as an e-book. Producers now must figure out how to handle the graphic sexual content found in titles the media has dubbed “mommy porn”.

Last week also marked the merger of SAG and AFTRA, the unions representing actors. Members of both groups overwhelmingly voted to join forces to create the largest bargaining group in Hollywood. Only time will tell if presenting a united front will give the thespians more power to negotiate better contracts.

Meanwhile, the popular music streaming service Spotify has decided to allow unlimited free listening indefinitely. While this is good news for music fans, how will Spotify, which has yet to turn a profit, pay increased licensing fees to all the record labels?

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