Showbiz Sandbox 240: Nikki Finke Is Back! And This Time It’s Personal

An infamous entertainment industry journalist who causes Hollywood executives to break into cold sweats is back on the interwebs. Nikki Finke, the founder and former editor of Deadline Hollywood whom the New York Times once dubbed “a digital-age Walter Winchell”, launched her new website last week. Using her trademark brash and personal writing style, Finke admits she is ready to spill some show business blood.

Amazon appears to be just as aggressive as Finke when negotiating with their suppliers. First the online retailer started making it difficult to purchase books from the publisher Hachette. Now they’re taking the same approach with Warner Bros. movies as they come to a new agreement with the studio. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers we’ll all be buying more of our media on digital platforms rather than physical ones anyway.

The platform the Metropolitan Opera cares most about is the stage. However New York’s opera company is weathering some tough negotiations of its own as it tries to balance big salaries with a shrinking endowment. A recent tax filing has revealed the Met’s inner financial workings, including some of the hefty salaries it pays to employees and performers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Matt Lauer extends his contract at NBC, Bjork gets selected by the Museum of Modern Art and actor Harrison Ford takes that “break a leg” saying to a whole new level on the set of the new Star Wars movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

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Showbiz Sandbox 211: Why Movie Studios Are Playing Musical Chairs With Release Dates

There was a time if a Hollywood studio pushed back the release date for one of its eagerly anticipated titles it signaled the movie might be in trouble. If there was ever a sign that such stigmas no longer apply when delaying a release date, one need look no further than this year. An overly crowded and competitive awards season has meant the release dates for a number of high-end hopefuls have been wisely pushed into 2014, including “Monuments Men”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Distributors in China, Japan and South Korea may soon have to start worrying about release dates too. Box office is surging to record levels in Asia, thanks not to Hollywood blockbusters, but rather homegrown productions.

If it were up to consumer electronics manufacturers, we’d all be watching movies at home on our new 4K Ultra HD televisions. Broadcasters, burned by the original conversion to HD and a string of 3D experiments, want to know who is going to foot the bill this time around.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new, yet familiar, writers taking on the “Star Wars” sequels, YouTube gets into the music streaming business and Netflix wants to make original movies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 194: Tony Awards Prove Broadway Knows How To Put On A Show

Once again actor Neil Patrick Harris proved he knows how to host an awards show with a dazzling turn as master of ceremonies at this year’s Tony Awards last Sunday. The ceremony provided its share of surprises and dramatic speeches from the likes of Cicely Tyson and pop-star Cyndi Lauper as “Kinky Boots” walked off with six Tonys including Best Musical. Though the telecast may have been poorly directed, it was filled with a mixed bag of performances from this season’s top Broadway shows.

For Broadway play or musical, a Tony can provide a huge boost at the box office, though it’s no guarantee. There has never been a magic formula for investing in the arts which is something JP Morgan and its partners should have looked into before loaning Paramount Pictures a load of cash to finance movies. Now everyone is suing each other after the bank discovered their Hollywood investments weren’t as risk free as they had initially thought.

That kind of inside news is usually reported by the likes of Nikki Finke over at her Deadline Hollywood blog. However, if a scoop from a competing online news source is correct, Finke’s days at Deadline may be numbered. Has Finke’s conentious reputation finally caught up with her, or will a crosstown rival need to eat some crow?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon’s European tax problems, Disney’s digital distribution plans, and the possibly illegal limitations of Microsoft’s new Xbox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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Showbiz Sandbox 160: Shedding Some Light On High Frame Rate Cinema

In case you haven’t heard, Peter Jackson is shooting his upcoming adaptation of “The Hobbit” at 48 frames per second (fps). That’s twice the standard 24 fps most films are filmed and shown in. Digital cinema expert C.J. Flynn explains why filmmakers such as James Cameron are urging the industry to adopt high frame rates (HFR). While HFR has its benefits, Flynn highlights the many technology hurdles that need to be overcome before it becomes the norm.

DreamWorks Animation is undergoing changes of its own. The studio signed a new deal with Twentieth Century Fox to release their films after the expiration of their current agreement with Paramount Pictures.

Late-night TV also had some big news last week with ABC announcing it will move Jimmy Kimmel’s show to 11:35 pm, competing directly with Jay Leno and David Letterman. What does this mean for the late shift and more specifically, for the long running news program Nightline, which will be pushed back an hour.

Of course, we cover all the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon launching the Kindle in India, Taylor Swift proves she has staying power with her latest single, and NBC’s “The Office” comes to an end after nine seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 155: How Hollywood Handles A Real-Life Tragedy

The ripple effect caused by a deranged gunman last week at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” spread far beyond the scene of the crime in Aurora, Colorado. Warner Bros. had to instantly pivot from celebrating the studios biggest opening of the year to managing a horrific nightmare which left 12 people dead and dozens injured. We examine how the studio and the entertainment industry have dealt with being part of such a tragic event.

On a happier note, at least for cable networks, the Emmy nominations were announced last week for the year’s best achievements in television. The major broadcast networks, which used to dominate the awards, were entirely shut-out in certain categories. Is this merely a fluke, or has the tide truly shifted to cable programming?

Meanwhile, author Brett Easton Ellis has been in a public feud with Deadline Hollywood editor Nikki Finke, all thanks to a simple posting on Twitter. We’ll fill you in.

We also cover all the week’s top entertainment headlines including some sequels to popular Pixar films, an executive shake-up at News Corp. and the newest judge on “American Idol”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 118: Mr. Television Rates This Year’s New Shows

There’s a good reason Marc Berman is known as Mr. Television. As the man behind MediaWeek’s daily television newsletter The Programming Insider his commentary on the medium reached more than 50,000 readers per day. Berman recently launched TV Media Insights, a new online destination for television and media with its own newsletter, forum and podcast. Berman handicaps this year’s Emmy Awards and also tells us which new shows are worth watching in the upcoming season.

We also continue our discussion on the publishing industry, which due to the dramatic changes in how they do business, is becoming one of the more fascinating parts of the entertainment industry. As e-book sales increase, popular authors are beginning to announce plans to release new work directly to readers and Amazon plans on creating a Netflix fof books.

Meanwhile, a The Hollywood Reporter served a cease and desist order on Deadline.com which sparked a war of words between the two trade outlets. Is the Reporter in financial trouble, and if so, should Deadline staff be spreading the word to potential advertisers?

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Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

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Showbiz Sandbox 94: Charlie Sheen Is More Entertaining Than The Oscars

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards are finally over and, as expected, “The King’s Speech” took home most of the top prizes, including Best Picture. IndieWire’s Anne Thompson gives us her take on all the winners and losers, not to mention the poorly received Oscar telecast. One day before the Oscars Anne was at the Independent Spirit Awards and she reveals what the attendees were up to during the commercial breaks.

Remarkably actor Charlie Sheen just about managed to upstage the Oscars, and he wasn’t even there. Though that may be the only place Sheen could not be found. He continued his oddball antics by calling into radio shows, texting gossip websites and appearing on news programs causing CBS to ceased production of “Two And A Half Men”. The question on everyone’s mind now is just how much money does the network stand to lose by dumping the hit show.

Speaking of money, we discuss the music industry’s top earners in 2010 and how some of them made the list without releasing an album. We review all the week’s entertainment news including Broadway’s new number one show, plans to take “American Idol” voting online and the sale of troubled home video giant Blockbuster.

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