Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

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 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 221: Sundance Returns To Its Indie Roots (Again)

Celebrities, filmmakers and industry executives are in the midst of their annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Thanks to digital technology it’s never been easier to make or distribute a low budget film. This has led to a glut of indie productions looking for audiences and no way to know which are worth watching.

This year’s Sundance began the day Oscar nominations were handed out and the festival’s founder was overlooked for his critically praised performance in “All Is Lost”. (Awkward). With nine films competing for Best Picture, and guild awards not being hounded out to consistent winners, it looks as if this will be one of the closest Oscar races in recent memory.

Meanwhile, an appeals court ruling may have finally killed Net Neutrality, much to the joy of Internet service providers everywhere. This means the cost of streaming online music and video may soon rise significantly.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a Broadway bound musical adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen”, the declining appeal (and ratings) of “American Idol” and the most popular show on daytime television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 219: The Business of Show Was Profitable In 2013

Almost every sector of the entertainment industry saw record grosses during 2013. North American movie ticket sales reached a record $10.9 billion. Television audiences are tuning in to more shows than ever, especially sporting events. The top 20 concert tours made a whopping $2.43 billion. It all helped contribute to the bottom lines of many entertainment companies causing their stock prices to end the year on a high note.

The only category in which revenue declined was the music. Even sales of digital music declined for the first time since iTunes was launched back in 2003. Album sales were down 8.4% overall and some industry insiders concede this might be due to streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify.

And financial numbers aren’t the only ones increasing in entertainment. So are the sizes of televisions. They’re not only getting bigger, but the consumer electronics industry is pushing Ultra HD with 4K resolution, which is twice that of current HD televisions.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of singer Phil Everly, the expansion and increased usage of UltraViolet and the manufactured controversy behind Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 179: How To Gamble And Win On Broadway

This year alone there are at least 15 new shows being mounted on Broadway including adaptations of movies such as “Diner” and “Big Fish”. At one point or another all were in search of financial backing, however well known productions with big name stars often don’t pay dividends. We review which upcoming stagings smart, experienced Broadway investors should be banking on.

A very successful Sundance Film Festival came to an end last week as distributors left Park City having acquired a dozen or more independent films. We discuss the reason behind the frenzied sales activity and why some films came with steep seven-figure price tags.

Since we’re on the subject of paying out or investing money, it looks as if the cable bill for Los Angelenos will be going up again thanks to the L.A. Dodgers deal with Time Warner Cable for a new sports channel. Does one market really need six sports networks. More importantly, why are the customers in a single market forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Warner Bros. new CEO, JJ Abrams signs on to direct the new “Star Wars” and Fox begs viewers to use their DVRs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 176: Hollywood Unchained – 2012 Sets Another Box Office Record

Once again Hollywood raked in record earnings at the North American box office in 2012, though this time it wasn’t because of increased ticket prices.  In fact, both revenue and attendance were up nearly 6% during the year as 1.36 billion tickets were sold to set a new annual box office record of $10.8 billion.

Internationally box office receipts were off slightly.  After a string of years with record grosses, Hollywood movies raked in $13.5 billion outside North America.  The new year is looking up as well since nine films pegged as Oscar contenders are all still raking in big grosses.

The music business didn’t have such good news.  Album sales during 2012 declined 4.4% in the United States where Adele spent a second year at the top of the heap.  What’s noteworthy is that digital downloads outpaced physical album sales for the first time according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the sale of Al Gore’s cable network, the rising ratings for Big Bang Theory and why YouTube is deleting views for music videos.

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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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