Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

August 1, 2016

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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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 316: Indiana Jones and the Colonoscopy

March 21, 2016

Last week Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg announced they are grabbing a whip and fedora and planning one more adventure for Indiana Jones with its original director and star. They haven’t set a start date for shooting, don’t seem to have a script or even a setting or general idea for the movie yet, at least not one they’re sharing. But naturally they have a release date. The next Indiana Jones will be coming to a theater near you on July 19, 2019.

If it were up to the Screening Room, you’ll be able to watch the latest Indiana Jones installment from the comfort of your own home. Everyone is weighing in on the new company that wants to make blockbuster movies available in your home the same day they hit theaters.

Meanwhile, CBS is turning off their radios. The broadcaster says they are looking to offload their fabled radio group despite it being a stable long-term business. CBS believes radio doesn’t have sexy growth potential so they apparently wants out.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an explanation of television stacking rights, Mariah Carey gets her own reality series and China cracks down on box office fraud.

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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 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

July 27, 2015

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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Showbiz Sandbox 256: A Proposal For Fixing Television Ratings

November 3, 2014

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.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

July 29, 2014

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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