Showbiz Sandbox 335: FCC Has Big Plans For Television Set-Top Boxes

In a widely expected move, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, laid out a regulatory plan that would allow consumers to use the set-top box of their choice to access television. Naturally, pay television providers weren’t happy since they earn $20 billion annually by forcing their customers to rent such equipment. They claim Wheeler’s mandate is overreaching and his call for universal streaming app adoption could stifle innovation.

The September box office has kicked off the run up to the holiday moviegoing season in fine form. While ticket sales for the month are slightly higher than last year in the United States, it is international markets that continue to outperform. In fact, some films do so much better in China than in North America, that industry pundits wonder whether certain sequels should be China-centric and simply skip a U.S. release.

We’ll be back next week with our regular show that will cover all the news making headlines around the entertainment world.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 335: FCC Has Big Plans For Television Set-Top Boxes

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 282: Broadway’s Not So Big Night at the Tony Awards

A musical about family, sexuality and suicide along with a play about an adolescent with Aspberger’s syndrome won the top prizes at this year’s Tony Awards over the weekend. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home” was awarded Best Musical and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” earned Best New Play. On paper, both could have been marginal longshots to win Tonys, which can at times go to more commercial productions.

We go over the list of this year’s Tony Award winners and choose a few highlights from a ceremony in which they were quite sparse. It was great to see Kelli O’Hara win a Tony for Best Actress In A Musical after she had been overlooked the last five times she was nominated. Yet, in a year which saw Broadway break box office records, the telecast flirted with all-time low ratings.

Meanwhile, as we record this episode Apple appears set to announce their streaming music service which some big record label executives see as a tipping point that could save the industry. That seems like a tall order given how late the company is getting to market, but it’s never a good idea to underestimate Apple.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Netflix is heading to Spain, Senator Chris Dodd is staying on as head of the MPAA and Showtime is going over the top with its new streaming service.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 282: Broadway’s Not So Big Night at the Tony Awards

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

When theater owners and film distributors from around the world convened last week for CinemaCon in Las Vegas they were presented with a slate of upcoming blockbusters and cutting edge innovations which forecast an optimistic future for the industry. After ending last year with the most depressed box office returns in recent memory, 2015 is shaping up to break all records with at least four films potentially grossing more than a billion dollars.

Adding to the optimistic outlook are emerging technologies that enhance the experience of going to the cinema. Upgrades such as immersive sound, laser projection and high dynamic range may help lure certain demographics back to theaters. Teenagers and young adults, for instance, have seen declining attendance since 2007 as the number of on-demand entertainment options began expanding.

Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast called off its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after government agencies informed the company they would actively work to block the merger. Regulators believed the deal, which many feared but felt would ultimately be approved, might allow Comcast to dominate not just cable television, but more importantly high speed Internet access.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of “Sabado Gigante”, how WikiLeaks got involved in the Sony cyberattack and Netflix just keeps growing.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

Not even two weeks into 2015 and the annual slog known as awards season has commenced in earnest. This year’s festivities were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend which pull double duty by honoring the best of both movies and television. We wonder if it might make more sense to hold two different ceremonies throughout the year; one for movies and one for television.

The BAFTA nominations were also announced last year, though there was very little British about them, as has traditionally been the case. Guild nominations have also started pouring in as well, though what everyone wants to know is how all of this will affect the upcoming Oscar race.

Meanwhile, some established artists in the movie and music industries have started to offer their latest work directly to fans. By some accounts these experiments have proven incredibly successful and profitable, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell since sales figures for such efforts are often hard to come by.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including John Travolta’s return to television, why actress Charlize Theron requested a pay raise on her next film and an update on the Sony cyber attack.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 261: Sony Hack Gives New Meaning To The Term Box Office Bomb

As if Sony Pictures didn’t have enough to worry about with all their corporate emails and documents being leaked by hackers, now the perpetrators of the cybercrime have threatened movie theaters showing “The Interview” with terrorist attacks. What started out as a voyeuristic peek at the inner workings of a Hollywood studio has turned into a far more serious international incident. This has left the media questioning their own ethics and culpability for originally publishing portions of Sony’s stolen data.

With Sony’s dilemma getting so much attention, the announcement of this year’s Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations seemed rather subdued and tame by comparison. Maybe that’s because an awards season front runner has yet to emerge, or possibly because everyone is just tired of award shows.

Thanks to a listener email, we also discuss why the difference between screens and theaters matters when tallying up box office. The two words are often improperly used interchangeably.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s final show, the latest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year’s lack of platinum albums.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 261: Sony Hack Gives New Meaning To The Term Box Office Bomb

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Thanks to mobile devices, laptops, streaming video, DVRs and good old fashioned live viewing, it’s never been easier to watch your favorite television shows. However this explosion of viewing options has made it harder to keep track of how many people view each show, precisely when and on what device. Despite the difficulty of getting accurate figures networks still feel the need to report overnight ratings even if they don’t reflect a program’s total viewership.

We propose taking a new approach to television ratings that might fix this problem. For starters stop making a distinction between broadcast and cable networks. Same goes for differentiating ratings based on a show’s specific time slot or which day it airs on. And those are just a few of the suggestions we debate.

Another complicated issue the entertainment industry is grappling with is net neutrality. The FCC is reportedly weighing a “hybrid” solution to open Internet legislation which would classify entities as either wholesale or retail providers. Granted, there is no clear cut way to make such categorizations and consumers could wind up getting stuck with higher broadband fees, but why quibble over details?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams may be headed to court to defend their hit song “Blurred Lines”, movie theaters ban the use of wearable devices like Google Glass and Taylor Swift once again dominates album sales.

Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

Play