Showbiz Sandbox 364: Hollywood Averts Another Writer’s Strike With Last Minute Deal

May 2, 2017

Though it came down to the wire and took an all-night negotiating session, Hollywood avoided another costly writer’s strike earlier this week. The Writers Guild of America, which represents upwards of 12,000 movie and television writers, came to a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which negotiates on behalf of Hollywood studios and networks. The three year contract reportedly resolves several issues including the WGA health plan, how long a writer can be held by a television series as well as parity for online and cable residuals.

In other breaking news, the nominations for this year’s Tony Awards were announced, but it is anyone’s guess which of the four productions up for Best Musical will come out on top. The same is true of the four plays, each of which is by an American playwright making their Broadway debut. The only sure thing is that Bette Midler will win the Best Leading Actress in a Musical Award for “Hello Dolly!”

Meanwhile, after a 15 year decline in which global recorded music lost 40% of its value, the music industry is showing signs of life. You can thank streaming. For the second year in a row, music sales worldwide have increased – that includes physical product, digital and income from streaming.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including more layoffs at ESPN, “Saturday Night Live” heads to China (sort of) and Ryan Seacrest gets a new television gig.

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Showbiz Sandbox 361: Forget Release Windows, CinemaCon Proves the Screen is the Future

April 4, 2017

Cinema operators gathered in Las Vegas last week to attend the annual CinemaCon trade show where they were able to preview upcoming film releases and learn about some of the new technology on offer for their theatres. Naturally, box office was a big topic with global ticket sales (barely) hitting a record $38.6 billion. Even with a strong U.S. dollar, international box office still made up 71% of the total.

Another issue on everyone’s mind were theatrical release windows; studios want to introduce a premium video on demand offering that brings new releases to the home sooner, though exhibitors are understandably pushing back.

Meanwhile, there may be no movies to show in cinemas if screenwriters goes on strike. The Writers Guild of America has been meeting with producers and studios, however the sides are far apart in their negotiations and a strike is looking more likely.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle, why major advertisers are upset with YouTube and Adam Sandler reups with Netflix.

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Showbiz Sandbox 360: Can Spotify Come To Terms With Major Record Labels?

March 20, 2017

Even as Spotify has grown into the largest subscription streaming music service in the world, all of the company’s long-term licensing deals have expired and it has struggled to negotiate new ones that will help them lower costs and become a viable business. However new reports have emerged that Spotify may be close to reaching new licensing deals after agreeing to some strict terms from the labels.

Among these are marketing guarantees, the windowing of major releases and only placing full albums on the premium paid tier of their service. Spotify may have no choice but to accept the labels’ offer otherwise their much-anticipated IPO may fall apart once and for all.

Unlike Spotify, Netflix is a subscription streaming company that is at the top of its game and isn’t worried about squabbling with its content partners. Instead, the company has been busy altering its star rating system, restoring and lost Orson Welles film and bad-mouthing movie theaters.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the opening of Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” sets box office records, the head of the MPAA goes M.I.A. at CinemaCon and Saturday Night Live makes plans for prime time segments. Read more

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

September 12, 2016

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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

April 18, 2016

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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

November 9, 2015

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.

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

June 8, 2015

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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

April 27, 2015

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.

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

March 16, 2015

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”.

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

January 12, 2015

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.

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