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 158: A Rundown of The Year’s Top-Earning Authors

James Patterson tops the list of this year’s highest-paid authors according to Forbes. Working with a team of writers Patterson published an astounding 14 best-selling novels in 2011 to earn an estimated $94 million. Joining Patterson were regulars such as Stephen King and John Grisham among others, as well as newcomer George R.R. Martin whose “Game Of Thrones” series has become a best seller.

The Summer Olympics came to a close over the weekend. This must be disappointing to NBC which was just getting used to actually having an audience for a change. In fact, ratings for coverage of this year’s games set viewership records in both North America and Europe.

On previous episodes we’ve mentioned Hollywood’s new-found appreciation of China and it seems to only be growing. Last week filmmaker James Cameron announced the expansion of his 3D production company through a joint venture in China and DreamWorks Animation said they had agreed to work with a group of Chinese investors to develop a $3.1 billion culture and entertainment district in Shanghai.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how Google plans to punish copyright thieves, a rumor that dead pop stars will perform on this season’s “X-Factor” and plans to adapt a cult 80’s television show featuring an alien puppet into a hit movie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 151: Is It Time To Move Your Music To The Cloud?

If anyone is going to struggle with managing their digital music collection it’s Bob Boilen, the creator and host of NPR’s All Songs Considered, and a talented musician in his own right. Boilen created quite a stir a few weeks back when he announced he had just deleted all his music. Rather than keep tens-of-thousands of songs on his hard drive, Boilen has decided to move all his music to the cloud. He joins us for an in-depth conversation about the pros and cons of how we’ll all be listening to music in the future.

The 66th Annual Tony Awards were held over the weekend to honor this year’s best Broadway production and “Once”, based on the hit indie film, was the big winner this year taking home eight awards including Best Musical. Even host Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t liven up a lackluster show where the highlight was meant to be a number from a ten-year-old musical performed live from a Caribbean cruise ship.

When tickets went on sale recently for Justin Bieber’s upcoming tour they sold out all 48 shows in less than 60 minutes. Two concerts at Madison Square Garden sold out in 30 seconds. Yet, what might seem technically impossible at first becomes more understandable upon learning just how few tickets went on sale to the public.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

Last week legendary filmmaker George Lucas announced he would be stepping down as the head of Lucasfilm and hired veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy to head up the company that bears his name. With Lucas retiring what will happen to his blockbuster franchises such as “Indian Jones”? Will we finally get a restored version of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Blu-Ray?

Rather than retire after his long, successful run heading up Warner Bros., Alan Horn will step in as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Many industry insiders wonder if the executive who oversaw the “Harry Potter” series will have a creative role in what is perceived to largely be a babysitting position.

The Tony Awards will be held this weekend and we give you the lowdown on who has the best shot at taking home Broadway’s top honor.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a new king of late night television, Oprah’s new book club and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley should work together to stop piracy.

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Showbiz Sandbox 146: High Frame Rate Hijinks On “The Hobbit”

Movie theater owners were abuzz after seeing the first extended footage of “The Hobbit” a few weeks ago at CinemaCon. Most however didn’t have anything positive to say about Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated prequel to his “Lord of the Rings” franchise. The filmmaker decided to shoot the film at 48 frames per second, twice the speed of traditional 35mm film, and many who saw the clips felt they looked like a cheap soap opera. Jackson claims the footage was from unfinished scenes, though it left many wondering if high frame rate films are really worth all the hype.

Meanwhile, two months after Disney took a bath on “John Carter” when it bombed at the box office, the studio is raking in the dough on “Marvel’s The Avengers”. While the film may go on to be the highest grossing film of the year (so far), it wasn’t enough to save the job of Disney chairman Rich Ross.

Movies are even making news on Broadway. Leading the pack of Tony Award nominees last week were two musicals adapted from films; “Once” and “Newsies”.

We also cover some of the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks including James Bond’s new publisher, Jack White’s first number one album and a Amazon’s plans to crowd source good television shows.

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Showbiz Sandbox 134: Video-On-Demand Rides To The Rescue At Sundance

This year’s Sundance Film Festival came to a close last weekend awarding top prizes to a wide range of movies. Independent film industry veteran Michael Tuckman sizes up this year’s festival and highlights some of its most noteworthy movies. Tuckman explains how video-on-demand has become a big part of the distribution strategy for such films, providing them with a wider audience than traditional art houses.

IFPI also showed up with some good news last week reporting that global digital music sales were up eight percent in 2011. Subscription services such as Pandora and Spotify are helping increase revenue, though they are also eating into the advertising dollars usually reserved for local radio stations.

Meanwhile, Broadway is gearing up for its spring season with a glut of hot new productions, making it difficult to pick a front-runner for Best Musical (the most valuable – if not the only valuable – Tony Award). Best Play is also up for grabs and none of the newcomers are slam dunks.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including, Simon Cowell retooling the “X-Factor” with new hosts and judges, an upbeat earnings report from Netflix and how Ticketmaster bungled the sale of tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s latest tour… again.

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Showbiz Sandbox 106: A Tony Awards Preview Of Broadway’s Billion Dollar Year

Even without all the news surrounding the troubled production of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”, Broadway gave us plenty to talk about over the past year. This season brought more critically acclaimed (and financially successful) productions than during any time in recent memory. Brian Scott Lipton, editor-in-chief of TheaterMania.com, tells us who he thinks will win the year’s top Tony Awards on Sunday evening.

Movie box office is also on the rise after a disappointing first half of the year. Even so, the film grosses being earned in North America are being dwarfed by international box office. We’ll explain why.

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga ruled the album charts with her new release thanks to some help from Amazon.com. A number of artists are finding new and innovative ways to sell their music. In fact, the Kaiser Chiefs are allowing fans to create and sell their own albums with the band’s music.

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