Showbiz Sandbox 257: Debating President Obama’s Position On Net Neutrality

November 10, 2014

President Obama finally weighed in on the battle over net neutrality calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband providers as utilities under Title II of Telecommunications Act. This inflamed the war between those who believe such a move is mandatory and others who fear bureaucratic regulation will have the unintended consequence of throttling future development and investment in technology. We do our best to debate both sides of a very contentious issue.

Leaking copyrighted content online however, is an issue everyone can agrees is bad. Marvel Entertainment showed how to handle just such a scenario with aplomb when a leaked copy of the trailer for their highly anticipated sequel to “Avengers” hit the Internet before its official release. We’ll fill you in on Marvel’s immediate and exemplary response.

While we’re on the subject of responses, there’s no question how Taylor Swift’s new album was received by her fans. They gobbled up more than 1.2 million copies during its first week on sale. That’s more than the next 106 albums on the weekly sales chart combined.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Lemony Snicket on Netflix, Matt Damon returns to Jason Bourne and Pixar gears up for another “Toy Story”.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

September 29, 2014

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 140: Nollywood Love – Inside The Booming Nigerian Film Industry

March 13, 2012

Oil rich Nigeria may be best known for political upheavals and brutal civil wars, though over the past twenty years the country has given birth to a thriving film industry. New York Times Magazine contributing writer Andrew Rice explains that what started out as a surplus of blank VHS tapes has grown into what is now called Nollywood; the world’s third largest movie business.  Nollywood films now suffer from the same issues faced by Hollywood and Bollywood; piracy and escalating production costs.

The budget for Disney’s “John Carter” was about five thousand times that of the average Nollywood film, which is probably why a $100 million worldwide opening is seen as a bit of a disappointment. Directing his first live-action film, Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton seems to be getting most of the blame for the movie’s lack of success, though it just as easily could be pinned on a studio full of senior executives that lacked experience producing big blockbusters.

Speaking of pricey failures, Fox canceled its sci-fi series “Terra Nova”. Producers hope the show will be picked up by another network, though at $4 million per episode few can afford it.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 137: A Revealing Look At Who Votes For The Oscars

February 20, 2012

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never published a complete list of the 5,765 members who cast ballots for their annual Oscars. Despite the secrecy surrounding the Academy’s membership, Nicole Sperling worked for months with her colleagues at the Los Angeles Times to confirm 5,100 members. Sperling explains the method behind the Times’ research and some of the details they uncovered. Did you know only 2% of members are under the age of 40? Neither did we.

While the Academy Awards may celebrate some of the big critical and financial successes of the past year, Aaron Rich, the gentleman blogger behind All The Movies I Watch joins us to discuss some of his top movies of 2011, many of which were overlooked by Oscar voters.

If you watch the Oscars telecast this weekend you’ll probably be doing so through a cable or satellite signal. Aero, a new company backed by the likes of Barry Diller, hopes to change that by providing those wishing to cut their cable cord with a special antenna capable of receiving broadcast television. That is if the inevitable law suits don’t shut them down first.

Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 100: In Showbiz, As In Life, Size Matters

April 25, 2011

It’s hard to believe we’ve recorded 100 episodes of Showbiz Sandbox. It’s also hard to believe that a 3D porno (okay, an erotic comedy) could ever smash a box office record set by “Avatar”. But that’s exactly what happened in Hong Kong, where “Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy” opened to USD $2.19 million. The producers wanted to screen the film in Imax, but were refused, disappointing Karen Woodward, our guest and former co-host, who says that despite all the rumors, size does matter.

If bigger really is better, then Netflix has nothing to worry about. They are set to become the largest subscription entertainment business in the United States with over 23 million customers, beating out satellite radio and cable television. The same can’t be said about any of the music streaming services that Apple, Google and others are working on. Apparently, negotiating a licensing deal with record labels can be quite difficult. Go figure!

The Coachella Music Festival also took the size issue to heart, adding more space for attendees to enjoy the more than 100 bands which performed this year. J. Sperling Reich was there and tells us which artists are worth checking out (Lauryn Hill), and which shouldn’t quit their day jobs (Odd Future).

Read more


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


Showbiz Sandbox 28: Why Spider-Man Is Hard Up For $52 Million

November 9, 2009

We don’t always talk about theater on the podcast, but Los Angeles Times staff writer John Horn wrote a story too good to resist. The Broadway debut of “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark” has found its greatest enemy is the budget. Horn joins us to talk about the story behind one of the most troubled productions in Broadway history and how he got the scoop (not to mention the musical’s script, soundtrack and a video promo reel).

But first, Michael Giltz eats another serving of crow this week, as the Michael Jackson rehearsal documentary “This Is It” held up respectably and indie-darling “Precious” grossed a stunning $1,800,000 on just 18 theaters over the weekend. “Precious” will no doubt be nominated for a few Oscars come awards season. Speaking of the Academy Awards, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are teaming up to host next year’s Oscar telecast. Karen Woodward though the decision to go with Martin and Baldwin was dated and hopes they don’t hijack the show. On the other hand, Michael and J. Sperling Reich thought it was a good choice.

In more frivolous news, Nicolas Cage is suing his former money manager, Samuel J. Levin, for $20 million in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he enriched himself while “sending Cage down a path toward financial ruin.” Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 27: That’s It For “This Is It”

November 3, 2009

This week we begin with Michael Giltz and Karen Woodward disagreeing over “This Is It,” the Michael Jackson documentary/concert film/eulogy. Is the film recommendable? Not according to the box office numbers, where the film brought in a disappointing $23 million. But since the film made $103 million worldwide J. Sperling Reich wanted to serve Michael some crow pie.

If you don’t want to see “This Is It,” maybe you’ll see “Avatar”? The second trailer for the highly anticipated film was released this week, after the first one bombed. The new trailer looks like this movie is actually about something. How about “Precious”? Sperling and Michael disagree over whether this movie is a heart tugging Oscar winner or shallow drivel.

Speaking of shallow, did Jeffrey Katzenberg really add anything new to the future of entertainment conversation in his recent Business Week interview? Seems more like a politician staying message then a mogul adding to the dialogue. Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 25: Mr. Television Grades Freshman TV Shows (and Leno Flunks)

October 19, 2009

Mr. Television himself is our guest this week, which means we talk a lot about TV. Marc Berman is the senior television editor at MediaWeek and creator/editor of The Programming Insider, a daily online bible focused on all things television that reaches more than 50,000 readers per day. He even has a daily companion podcast to catch you up on all the latest television news.

But first, “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Paranormal Activity” win box office kudos this week, earning the number 1 and number 3 spots, respectively (sandwiching “Law Abiding Citizen,” at number two, as if anyone cares).

Motion Picture Association of America chief Dan Glickman will step down as Hollywood’s top lobbyist next year. He claims that at the ripe old age of 65, it’s time for him to “move on back into the world of either academia, public service, or non profits….This is a very difficult job. From the outside world, this job has the perception of being very glamorous. People think Angelina Jolie goes home with me every night. It hasn’t happened yet.” Poor Dan. Maybe we know someone who knows someone who can work the Angelina thing out for him before he steps down next September.  Read more