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 330: Rio Olympics Faces Competition for TV Viewers

August 8, 2016

The 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and there are more ways to watch the games than ever before. In the United States, NBC is broadcasting 6,800 hours of coverage from Rio across 11 television channels and 41 live online streams. We look at the declining TV ratings and whether all the action is happening in primetime or online. And does that even matter?

What didn’t seem to matter at all were the dozens of negative reviews movie critics skewered threw at the latest DC Comics adaptation, “Suicide Squad”. After being universally panned, the film went on to break global and North American box office records when it opened over the weekend.

The Television Critics Association summer press tour has proven to be a hotbed of video streaming news. For instance, Time Warner bought a 10% stake in Hulu and NBC let slip they will be announcing their own streaming plans soon. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Apple wants to build a TV guide to let everyone know how and where there favorite shows can be found.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Oprah’s latest book club pick, the albums nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize and George R. R. Martin books another TV series.

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Showbiz Sandbox 230: It’s Curtains For Celluloid at CinemaCon

March 31, 2014

Every spring movie theater operators from around the world converge on Las Vegas to attend CinemaCon. During the week-long convention cinema owners are bombarded with industry facts, attendance figures, educational seminars and endless footage from upcoming releases. Over the years advances in digital projection have become an increasingly important topic at the show.

It’s no secret that cinemas have been slowly converting their facilities from traditional 35mm projection to digital. There was no better indication that the days of celluloid film prints are definitely over than the number of vendors at CinemaCon demonstrating the next generation of digital technology, including immersive sound and laser projectors.

When it comes to live theater, there is no doubt that New York’s Broadway and London’s West End are the leaders of the pack. Our own Michael Giltz reviews his previous predictions and investment advice by recapping the past year’s biggest money making productions, as well as a few financial losers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the fall of “Duck Dynasty”, a decline in paid cable subscribers and Oprah Winfrey’s plans for a national tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 197: Studios Suffer A Summer of Blockbuster Flops

July 8, 2013

Hollywood is learning the hard way that big name movie stars don’t always guarantee the success of a tentpole release. This summer at least three mega-budget titles have tanked; Will Smith couldn’t save “After Earth”, Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum couldn’t rescue “White House Down” and even the casting of Johnny Depp as Tonto wasn’t enough to rustle up an audience for “The Lone Ranger”.

On the other hand, filmmaker Lee Daniels’ next film may not have a blockbuster-size budget, but it does feature an all-star cast that includes the likes of Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams and Oprah Winfrey. Now all it needs is a new name, since a 1916 Warner Bros. short has already laid claim to “The Butler” causing Daniels and distributor The Weinstein Company to call out the lawyers.

Meanwhile, as we await the court’s verdict in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple over the pricing of e-books, it turns out Amazon has quietly been raising the ante on a lot of titles, especially those from academic and small presses.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s new members, Jennifer Lopez in Turkmenistan and the cost of purchasing a Tony Award.

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Showbiz Sandbox 173: Spoiler Alert! Your Movie Has A Kicker

December 10, 2012

Frustrated at not knowing if the movie he was watching would have any special scenes during or after the credits Chris Ramey did something about it. Ramey is the founder of What’s After The Credits? a website that details kickers, as they are often called, to popular movies, television shows and video games. He tells how what inspired him to create the site and how its grown in popularity.

Speaking of popular, “Skyfall” is not only the most successful James Bond film of all time, it has also become the highest grossing movie of all time for Sony Pictures and the United Kingdom. Yet despite positive reviews, the film hasn’t been appearing in any of the recent year end critic polls.

Grammy nominations were announced last week and with acts like the Black Keys racking up five nominations, including Album of the Year, they had a rock and roll vibe. It is nice to see the Grammys include a lot of fresh faces in some of their top categories and refrain from knee-jerk nominations for veteran performers. We’ll provide a rundown of the nominations.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the expansion of iTunes to 56 new countries, Netflix signs an exclusive content deal with Disney and how much Psy is making off of his hit song “Gangnam Style”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

June 4, 2012

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 141: Mike Daisey Learns The Difference Between Journalism and Art

March 19, 2012

Monologist Mike Daisey began performing his one-man show, “The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs”, hoping to highlight the poor working conditions suffered by workers who make Apple products in Chinese factories. When it was learned that Daisey made-up most of his accounts of meetings with factory employees, it stirred up a debate over the changing definition of journalism. Are Daisey’s monologues really human truths in story form, or was he simply bending the truth to tell a better story?

Meanwhile, fans of British television are probably already familiar with Acorn Media. Now current and classic British programming such as “Upstairs Downstairs” can be watched on the company’s new streaming service, Acorn TV. Most recently Acorn acquired the rights to the popular World War II mystery series “Foyle’s War” as well as the estate of Agatha Christie. Miguel Penella, the company’s CEO, joins us to discuss some of Acorn’s bold moves for survival and long-term growth.

In music news, Billboard has finally figured out a way to include online music streaming figures in their weekly Hot 100 chart. Even so, some skeptics are pointing out that music video plays still aren’t being counted.

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Showbiz Sandbox 123: DVR Data Can Save TV Shows From Cancellation

October 17, 2011

It turns out your DVR can be helpful beyond just recording your favorite television shows. Examining which commercials you skip past might be able to help predict box office flops and monitoring which shows you watch can save a borderline series from being canceled. We’ll debate whether television networks and movie studios can benefit from the data being collected from your DVR.

Apple however may be trying to make your DVR obsolete. The long standing rumors that Apple might be working on a next generation television set have heated up once again. Would you welcome Apple into your living room?

Dozens of entries make up this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar list, though all of them will ultimately be nominated. We’ll explain how the list ultimately gets whittled down to just five movies.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including why Hulu is no longer for sale, why Jonny Depp’s “Lone Ranger” is back in production and how Amazon plans to make publishers unnecessary.

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Showbiz Sandbox 117: Crunching The Numbers Behind Summer’s New Box Office Records

September 6, 2011

Big budget sequels and super hero movies helped push the bar on summer box office records slightly higher. North American grosses rose to $4.4 billion as overseas markets improved to $8.2 billion in receipts. But how much did all those blockbusters actually cost to produce and market? After all the money is counted, how profitable will the latest installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Transformers” truly be? We sharpen our pencils and do the math to answer all these questions and more.

One future blockbuster that was recently axed by Disney may actually get made after all. The studios is lowering the budget on “The Lone Ranger” by asking star Johnny Depp and filmmaker Gore Verbinski to take a pay cut.

The publishing world also seems to be doing quite well lately thanks to strong sales of digital titles. Even though the e-books may be getting all the love in mainstream media stories, Random House wants everyone to know that print books aren’t dead. In fact, the sale of hardcover and paperback books still outpaces their digital counterparts.

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

July 25, 2011

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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