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 217: In Hollywood You’re Nobody Till Somebody Sues You

December 17, 2013

The entertainment industry is marking the end of 2013 with a flurry of lawsuits all having to do, one way or another, with profit participation. Moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein have filed suit against Warner Bros. over profits from sequels to “The Hobbit”, a property they originally owned. Then there’s the fired creator of “The Walking Dead” who is suing AMC claiming the network owes him tens of millions of dollars for the hit television series.

Filmmaker James Cameron is no stranger to legal battles since he is constantly having to fend off plagiarism lawsuits. Last week the director said he struck a tax deal with New Zealand to film not one, but three “Avatar” sequels in the country.

Golden Globe nominations were announced last week helping solidify awards season frontrunners such as “12 Years A Slave”, “American Hustle” and “Gravity” among others. Keep in mind, only about 90 international entertainment journalists get to nominate and vote for the Globes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new additions to the National Film Registry, the new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how Beyoncé surprised fans with a new album.

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Showbiz Sandbox 104: ‘Pirates’ Proves The Importance Of A Global Box Office

May 23, 2011

Despite earning more than $90 million in North America during its debut weekend, the opening of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” did not live up to many industry insiders lofty expectations for the movie. However, considering the film made an additional $260 million in more than 100 international territories, its impossible to consider the latest installment of the Jack Sparrow franchise anything other than a success.

Even so, some analysts believe any muted box office returns for “Pirates” in North America are due to the public’s rejection of 3D movies. Have audiences grown tired of viewing films in 3D? Is the once flashy new technology now passé or is the surcharge for 3D and Imax causing moviegoers to opt-out?

The Cannes Film Festival came to an end this past week with Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” taking home the Palm d’Or. Will winning the festival’s top prize help the film’s financial prospects? If history is any guide, probably not.

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Showbiz Sandbox 98: Why New Distribution Models Terrify Hollywood

April 4, 2011

Movie studios, television networks and record labels still haven’t updated their business models to account for video and music streaming services like Netflix and Spotify. Now companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple plan on introducing a whole new group of media subscription services. With premium video-on-demand on the horizon it’s no surprise the entertainment industry is concerned about all these disruptive distribution methods.

One of the biggest players in the current content licensing wars has been Netflix. Showtime and Starz began pulling shows from the video rental giant, while Fox and Paramount offered up popular series and hit movies. Cable operators have also entered the fray by allowing viewers to watch live television on mobile device apps.

The creator of “Mad Men” was embroiled in his own fight with AMC and Lionsgate over the future of the series. In the end, Matthew Weiner was able to reach an agreement on a new contract, though new episodes won’t air until 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 84: A Black List Every Screenwriter Wants To Be On

December 20, 2010

Since 2005 Hollywood studio executive Franklin Leonard has compiled an annual list of the industry’s “most liked” unproduced screenplays. Dubbed The Black List, past selections have gone on to win Academy Awards (“Juno”) or be turned into critically acclaimed films (“The Social Network”). Leonard talks about the project he began on a whim and how it has grown to a point where it can help launch a screenwriter’s career.

Also joining us on this week’s show is Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times. Boucher explains how he recently broke two big stories in the film world. His first scoop was about filmmaker Jon Favreau who, after helming the first two installments of the Iron Man franchise, has opted not to direct “Iron Man 3”. Instead he’ll make a big budget film about Disneyland. That’s right… Disneyland. Meanwhile, Boucher also spoke at length with director Ron Howard who is working closely with author Stephen King to adapt the writer’s “Dark Tower” series for the big screen.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association had many in Hollywood scratching their heads this week after they announced their Golden Globe nominations. Exactly how (or why) they nominated an action film such as “The Tourist” in the Best Musical or Comedy category is anybody’s guess.

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Showbiz Sandbox 81: Kanye West Spins His Own Hype

November 30, 2010

The week of Thanksgiving is usually slow when it comes to entertainment news, but not this year. There was a horse race at the box office as Disney’s 50th animated feature nearly toppled the seventh Harry Potter film at the box office. “Tangled” received positive reviews and earned an impressive $69 million over the four day holiday weekend.

Also bowing last week was Kanye West’s fifth studio album which is being hailed by critics as a masterpiece. But even before critics had weighed in West had jumped on popular social networking platforms to promote the release and his image. A story in the Los Angeles Times claims the hip-hop star has become a master at creating and controlling his own hype. If that’s the case, then why does West have such a terrible reputation as a troublemaker?

Also trying to promote themselves via social media was Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. The furry blue “cookie enthusiast” is campaigning to host “Saturday Night Live” starting with a video on YouTube. Don’t laugh too hard though, since “SNL” seems to be where the Oscars are scouting for hosts. Just ask two former SNL guests James Franco and Anne Hathaway who will be co-hosting the 83rd Academy Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 62: The Secret Behind Hollywood’s Accounting Practices

July 12, 2010

How is it the last Harry Potter film can gross $938 million but still lose $130 million? Journalist and author Edward Jay Epstein joins us to unravel some of Hollywood’s quirky accounting practices. He’s written two books on the subject; The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies and The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood.

“Despicable Me” topped the box office though the amount it took in from 3D screens was rather low. Could audiences be tiring of paying exorbitant 3D ticket prices? Meanwhile, Miramax finally seems to have found a buyer and Lions Gate is trying to make piece with activist investor Carl Icahn.

The Emmy nominations were announced last week and we’ll fill you in on whose up for the television’s big awards. Over in the world of music Pollstar announced that concert ticket sales are down 15% for the first half of the year.

During our Big Deal or Big Whoop segment we race through a number of top entertainment headlines, including Roman Polanski’s release, Lindsay Lohan’s jail time and Mel Gibson getting dumped by his agency. Maybe Gibson can find some work on YouTube, which plans to offer $5 million in grants to select content partners.

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Showbiz Sandbox 57: A Memo From James Cameron

June 7, 2010

It was kind of a slow news week in the entertainment world, especially when it comes to the North American box office.  Movie attendance is down 10% over last year’s summer blockbuster season.  Hollywood Reporter deputy film editor Carl DiOrio stops by with his theories as to why audiences are staying away from this year’s crop of Hollywood offerings.

The MTV Movie Awards were held last weekend and the telecast was filled with so much profanity half of it was bleeped out. Though few take the awards seriously, we’ll still fill you in on all the winners and Tom Cruise’s outstanding dance performance.

Over in television Bravo has been making a name for itself with a string of successful reality television shows including “The Real Housewives of New York”.  The network is not shy about letting the New York Times know that they use social media and the Internet to decide which shows are working, popular storylines and which cast members are break out stars deserving their own show.  Speaking of break out stars, the cast of the popular “Big Bang Theory” wants a 285% pay raise and are presenting a unified front when negotiating with the network.

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Showbiz Sandbox 55: I Want My Google TV

May 25, 2010

It’s official. Google is getting into the television business with help from Sony and Logitech. Will making television searchable cause viewership to rise? On the other hand, movies have apparently found a way to shrink their audience – raise movie ticket prices. While “Shrek Forever After” may have topped the North American box office, it’s $71 million debut was seen as a bit of a disappointment. Industry pundits are pointing to the rising cost of 3D movie tickets as part of the cause.

And if you think movie tickets are getting too expensive just wait until cable companies start offering “home theater on demand”. Movie studios are being pitched by cable operators on distributing their movies via video-on-demand just 30 days after they are released in theaters. However, the $20 to $30 price tag may turn potential customers away.

We wrap up our coverage of the Cannes Film Festival, where an obscure “auteur” film from Thailand took the top prize. Michael Giltz and J. Sperling Reich tell us about all the films they liked (and hated) at this year’s festival.

The series finale of “Lost” aired over the weekend, though it received mixed reviews and mediocre ratings. Read more

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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

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