Showbiz Sandbox 334: Music Streaming Wars Heat Up Over Exclusive Releases

September 6, 2016

The competition between Apple Music and Spotify for subscribers has been cutthroat over the past year. Now comes word that Spotify may be retaliating against artists working with Apple. We’ll take a look at how exclusive new releases have raised the stakes in the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy.

We also explain why it’s time everyone stopped discussing how abysmal North American summer box office was. After all, 2016 box office and attendance is actually up over the previous year, which had record earnings.

And in what might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, China is questioning whether Universal’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation breaks its antitrust regulation.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Jackie Chan will be awarded an honorary Oscar, Frank Ocean makes history by topping the Billboard charts with a self-released album and Baz Lurmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is being turned into a musical.

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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 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

September 28, 2015

It is said numbers don’t lie, however in the entertainment business they don’t always tell the truth either. When it comes to box office grosses, television ratings, home video earnings and book sales, numbers can often present misleading or incomplete information which paint an unrealistic, or at times purposefully skewed, financial picture.

Netflix, for instance, released data detailing what they claim is the episode when their customers get hooked on a television series. However, the “hook study” performed by the subscription video streaming service was limited in scope and may simply be an example of how good Netflix is at spinning its numbers into great PR opportunities.

Meanwhile, like every other area of the entertainment industry, the book world has been rocked by the digital revolution. But publishers believe the business is leveling out based on sales figures which leave out large segments of the market. None of this explains why e-books cost more than paperbacks though.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amy Schumer’s big book advance, a lawsuit over the movie “Goodfellas”, which Warner Bros. says was a huge flop, and the Harry Potter origin story will become a two part theatrical production on London’s West End.

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Showbiz Sandbox 280: French Films Win Big In Cannes This Year

May 26, 2015

The 68th annual Cannes Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend with the French drama “Dheepan” winning the Palme d’Or. In a festival filled with artistic works commenting on modern social issues, director Jacques Audiard’s film tells the story of three Sri Lankan refugees who form a family-of-convenience while fleeing to France in hopes of a better life.

Anne Thompson, Editor-at-Large for Indiewire, joins us to discuss the highs and lows of this year’s Festival de Cannes, which include many of the films that took home awards, not to mention a 3D porno. But as Thompson explains, many of the big buzzworthy films were Hollywood titles screened out-of-competition; “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Inside Out” come to mind.

Time Warner Cable meanwhile, fresh from having broken up with their previous suitor, Comcast, may now be acquired in a $56.7 billion deal. Though this move was widely expected, it is an indicator of how the market is attempting to stay ahead of the fast changing ways by which audiences consume television content.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the David Letterman’s signs off the “Late Show” one final time, Jennifer Lopez is taking up residency in Las Vegas for a string of shows next year, and multi-hyphenate Barbra Streisand is penning her memoirs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 269: When Journalists Make Headlines Instead of Report Them

February 17, 2015

Last week a number of respected journalists who have won praise after decades of reporting the news actually wound up in the headlines themselves. First Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended for six month by the network when allegations arose that he exaggerated his experiences while reporting on the Iraq War. Then, esteemed New York Times media columnist David Carr suddenly died after collapsing in the newsroom leading to an outpouring of condolences.

Ironically, overshadowing both of these events was an announcement from Jon Stewart, a self-professed “fake journalist” that he would be leaving “The Daily Show” after 17 years as it’s host. Such news must have executives at Comedy Central reeling, since it comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert’s departure from the network.

On the other hand, Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to stay at Sony, however will be loaned to Disney for appearances in Marvel’s multi-character movies. The studio also plans to once again reboot the Spider-Man franchise by recasting the role.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the huge opening weekend for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Netflix heads to Cuba and the latest awards season winners.

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Showbiz Sandbox 252: Crouching Netflix, Hidden IMAX and the Myth of Broken Release Windows

October 6, 2014

The Weinstein Co. stunned the entertainment industry last week by announcing they would distribute the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times explains, the plan only has one problem; movie theaters refuse to show any film that opens day-and-date on home video or video-on-demand. This begs the question, if a movie never opens theatrically, was it’s release window really broken?

Netflix continued to make additional headlines later in the week by signing a deal with actor Adam Sandler to make four original movies for the streaming service. We discuss whether Netflix is changing the Hollywood paradigm or simply becoming one more buyer of premium content.

While Netflix is leaning into the future, director Christopher Nolan is taking a more old fashioned approach by releasing his upcoming movie on actual film. Select theaters showing “Interstellar” on analogue celluloid will get the film two days early. But will theater owners, who recently converted to digital cinema, still know how to thread a 35mm projector?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Saturday morning cartoons, why U2 released their latest album on vinyl and how Facebook is helping “Twilight” live on through a series of short films.

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Showbiz Sandbox 236: Getting Sleep At This Year’s Cannes Film Festival

May 19, 2014

It’s the middle of May so that must mean it is once again time for the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most anticipated and prestigious annual events of the international film industry. This year’s Festival du Film is stocked with titles by auteurs considered to be the world’s crème de la crème. Whether it’s a selection from festival favorite Ken Loach or a timely political movie from Malian director Abderrahmane Sissako, we’ll tell you all about the films that have been hits with the critics and attendees.

Meanwhile, cable and broadcast networks held their annual upfronts in New York last week to announce which series we’ll be watching next season (and which ones they’ve cancelled). The question is with most of the networks moving toward year round programming, are upfronts still an effective method to sell advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission finally published their open internet notice last week managing to please just about nobody. This comes as media companies continue to consolidate with AT&T announcing their plans to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including this year’s Eurovision Song Contest winner, labor disputes at the Metropolitan Opera and Conan O’Brien’s contract gets renewed.

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Showbiz Sandbox 225: Comcast and TimeWarner Cable Is A Marriage Made In….

February 17, 2014

The proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable has presented industry analysts with a number of complicated questions. Providing some of the answers is David Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, who joins us to provide background and insight into a transformative $45 billion deal that would combine the two largest media and technology providers in North America.

Though there are no legislative restrictions, will the U.S. government try to prevent to the two cable giants from consolidating? What concessions will the regulators ask of Comcast if allowing the merger to go through? How will consolidation give Comcast leverage in negotiations with content providers? Would the combined companies have too much control over the media? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for consumers?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BAFTA awards were handed out over the weekend to films with strong British ties. That wasn’t the case at the Berlin Film Festival where Chinese movies took home the top prizes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut, actress Ellen Page’s inspiring coming-out speech, and an update on actor Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art stunt.

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

December 23, 2013

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 201: Why CBS Is Winning The Battle (And The War) Over Cable Television

August 12, 2013

For the past two weeks Time Warner Cable has been blacking out CBS networks in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets over a retransmission dispute. Despite losing more than 3 million households ratings on CBS have remained steady giving the network no reason to back down from its demands. With the new television and football seasons set to begin in September Time Warner Cable may have no choice but to cave in to CBS’ terms.

Meanwhile, this summer’s blockbuster movies continue to underperform at the box office with Disney announcing they may have to take a $190 million write down on losses from “The Lone Ranger”. Actor Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have figured out who to blame for the movie’s failure; vengeful American film critics.

After being publicly trashed by George Clooney, activist investor Daniel Loeb was unable to convince Sony to spin-off its entertainment divisions. Even so, Loeb says he’s pleased since the company’s stock price is up and its management more accountable to shareholders.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lost film from Orson Welles, a new ending for the “Finding Nemo” sequel and the surprising new owner of The Washington Post.

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