Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 329: Television Gets Turned Off By Apple

August 1, 2016

Rumors about how Apple plans to conquer television have circulated for years. Initially it was thought the company intended to manufacture a television set. This led to speculation that it was putting together an over-the-top alternative to cable. Now reports have emerged that numerous deals between Apple and the TV industry have collapsed over the company’s aggressive negotiating tactics. Did Apple blow it by trying to tackle too much at once, or did television networks simply feel threatened?

We’ll also spend some time catching up on international movie box office. As much as Hollywood has discovered the benefits of doing business around the globe, so to have its movie stars and filmmakers. In addition, we discuss the flurry of mergers and acquisitions activity taking place among some of the world’s leading cinema chains.

In the publishing world it turns out that 2015 was a pretty good year with over $28 billion in sales just in North America. As well, it appears the release windows between formats like hardcover, paperback and e-books are collapsing or becoming non-existent.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the official end of the VCR, Netflix nabs the new “Star Trek” series and why the final installment of the “Divergent” franchise is headed straight to television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 326: How Brexit Will Affect the Entertainment Business

June 27, 2016

Thanks to the passage of a referendum in the United Kingdom dubbed Brexit, Britain will soon be leaving the European Union. Entertainment companies beyond those in the UK suddenly face a lot of uncertainty and confusion over deals they have already made and will be making in the months and years to come. We discuss how the Brexit vote may affect the entertainment industry.

In other troubling news, the long awaited (as in 20 years) sequel to “Independence Day” opened to disappointing box office returns. This has led to industry pundits spouting erroneous lessons Hollywood can take away from its release. Knowledgeable nuggets such as don’t wait too long to make a sequel (or did they forget about “Star Wars”) and don’t make sequels without the original star (though “Jurassic World” proved that theory wrong just last year).

We also take a look at virtual print fees or VPFs. A letter from one of our listeners asked us to clarify how small independent distributors can afford them. So, we review the history of VPFs, how they work around the world and when studios will stop paying them to theater owners.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a court decides that legendary rock band Led Zeppelin didn’t plagiarize its biggest hit, “Mr. Robot” gets more episodes in its second season and “Star Trek” fan films get a green light from Paramount Pictures (sort of).

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Showbiz Sandbox 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 314: As Expected, The Oscars Shine A Spotlight On Diversity

February 29, 2016

In a year when the Academy Awards were faulted for a lack of diversity among its nominees, ceremony host Chris Rock addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy head on in his opening monologue by mixing pointed criticism with biting humor. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor at large, brings us along as she attends the 88th annual Oscars and explains just how difficult it was to predict this year’s winners.

Mind you, award season never really ends. France handed out their own awards for last year’s top movies and we’ll tell you who won all the big prizes at the Cesars. We even look at the nominations for the Olivier Awards, the London theater equivalent to the Tonys. Literally hours after winning his first Oscar, Mark Rylance was nominated again, this time for his performance in “Farinelli and the King”.

Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble is planning to imitate its online rival Amazon by, oddly enough, opening new brick and mortar stores. And a reissue of the Alex Haley bestseller Roots brings up everything from copyright to the question of when a book goes out of print to ebook pricing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix and other streaming services have decimated video sales, PBS will launch its own cable network and Adele tops the Brit Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

February 2, 2016

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 299: The Gender Pay Gap Lands A Starring Role In Hollywood

October 19, 2015

Hollywood’s gender pay gap is once again a hot topic of discussion thanks to a frank essay on the subject by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. We are joined by Karen Woodward, an entertainment industry social media consultant, who suggests that the crass and angry tone the actress took in her piece helped gain attention for the issue and start a conversation on how to fix the problem.

We’ll hear what Lawrence had to say about being paid less than her male co-stars, specifically how she’s no longer concerned with being “liked” or finding a kinder, gentler way to express her opinion. Now at least one of her frequent co-stars has plans to take up the cause with what could be a very effective strategy.

Meanwhile, with the number of major record labels having already declined to three from what was once six, it appears the industry’s contraction may soon affect music publishing with Sony/ATV looking for a new owner. Could one of the world’s largest music publishers soon merge with a competitor?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Playboy magazine is getting rid of its centerfold, how “The Walking Dead” went global in a big way and Netflix earnings and subscriber growth disappoint Wall Street.

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Showbiz Sandbox 289: In Hollywood Fame and Fortune Is Often Relative

August 10, 2015

There is no dispute that in the entertainment business, just like in any other industry, money is the fuel that keeps the engine running. Yet raising it, accounting for it, paying it back and doling out profits is becoming more complex for media companies. Indeed, making a fortune in show business is anything but easy or straight forward.

Take Relativity Media for example. The upstart movie studio and its brash CEO Ryan Kavanaugh were going to change the way Hollywood operated and movies were made. However now they’ve filed for bankruptcy. We’ll provide some background and explain the details of what could wind up being the largest studio bankruptcy ever.

Movie moguls aren’t the only one’s struggling to mind their dollars and cents. Legendary musician David Byrne wants record labels to be more transparent about where all the money is going in the music business. Meanwhile the Authors Guild has a few thoughts of its own when it comes to copyright and revenue from book sales.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Jon Stewart’s last “Daily Show”, staff turmoil at Rolling Stone magazine and changes afoot in film distribution strategies.

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Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

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