Showbiz Sandbox 305: Should “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Box Office Records Require An Asterisk?

December 21, 2015

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records the world over and became the biggest movie opening of all time by earning $529 million. We explain why in countries such as Japan and South Korea, the latest “Star Wars” not only didn’t win the weekend, but in some cases earned less than earlier installments of the franchise. We also look at the breakdown of which formats audiences favored when buying tickets.

George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977 and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989. We weigh in on the annual list of films added to the registry by the Library of Congress, charged with selecting new entrants. It always makes for a fascinating mix; we’ll discuss what made this year’s cut there and why. Hint: It’s not always artistry that counts… and no we’re not looking at you “Top Gun.”

In music news, it turns out online radio services such as Pandora will soon be paying more to license songs. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to prevent her fans from having to pay more to purchase tickets to see her in concert. We’ll tell you about the growing backlash against the secondary market for concert tickets and what some artists are doing about it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how “Star Wars” bumped Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie out of a historic movie theater, Howard Stern signs a new deal with SiriusXM and the list of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Showbiz Sandbox 301: The Current Reality of Virtual Reality

November 9, 2015

Until the past few years virtual reality felt more like actual fiction, as proponents offered up underwhelming demonstrations which requiring expensive and cumbersome equipment. The days however, the ongoing work by the pioneers developing VR has transformed the technology into a viable platform for more than just the odd hardcore gamer.

As VR products and content make their way into the consumer market, it seems no industry trade show or film festival is complete without addressing the technology in some way. In fact, just last week, the Sundance Institute announced they would begin a residency program in VR and the New York Times launched their own VR initiative. We dive into the hype behind VR and try to make some sense out of what all the fuss is about.

Meanwhile, as the MPAA confirmed a new agreement for film distribution in China, and with the country on track to surpass North America as the world’s largest movie market in 2017, a number of organizations are claiming China isn’t abiding by international trade rules to which it had originally agreed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the nominees from this year’s European Film Awards, Showtime’s plans for the revival of “Twin Peaks” and why a number of police departments are calling for their officers to boycott Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie.

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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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Showbiz Sandbox 268: Going Backstage At The Grammys With David Wild

February 8, 2015

The Grammy Awards were held last weekend to honor the year’s best music. David Wild, one of the producers and writers of the Grammys telecast (not to mention a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), takes us behind the scenes at the ceremony. He explains what it’s like to get Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj on the same page and the difficulty of describing Sia’s unique stage performance to Stevie Wonder.

Meanwhile, a couple of big media conglomerates announced significant management changes over the past week; Amy Pascal will be stepping down as head of Sony Pictures due in no small part to the recent cyber attack against the company and Tom Staggs is anointed as the most likely candidate to take over for Disney CEO, Bob Iger when the latter steps down in 2018.

Speaking of big name execs, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler finally submitted his proposal for net neutrality, which would regulate ISPs to enforce open internet protections.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why actor Michael Gambon is retiring from the stage, the uproar over news anchor Brian Williams and how Kodak is keeping film stock alive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 244: Hollywood Faces An Epic Struggle Over the Future of Entertainment Distribution

July 29, 2014

Whether it’s movies streaming online before they premiere in theaters, the never-ending retransmission dispute between television networks and cable companies or the dwindling number of book retailers, how media companies are distributing their content has never been more in flux.

The Weinstein Company released their critically acclaimed release “Snowpiercer” on VOD just two weeks after the film opened in cinemas. Then they agreed to let “One Chance”, a biopic of talent show winner Paul Potts, stream free on Yahoo! ten days before the movie opens in the United States.

Meanwhile, rather than sell you books, Amazon is hoping you’ll be willing to pay a monthly fee for their new e-book subscription service. The only problem is the service’s limited selection (not to mention the company’s inability to make a profit), making us wonder whether such a business model is viable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Weird Al Yankovic’s album wound up at the top of the sales charts, the Emmy’s snub broadcast networks and Garth Brooks comes out of retirement.

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Showbiz Sandbox 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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Showbiz Sandbox 183: Going Inside This Year’s Oscars With Anne Thompson

February 25, 2013

As one of the hosts of the Oscar Talk podcast and the editor of Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog, it’s no wonder Anne Thompson beat out most other award season experts by correctly predicting 19 out of 24 winners at this year’s Academy Awards. Thompson attended the Oscar ceremony in-person and confirms that Seth MacFarlane was no better live than on television.

Less than 24-hours after “Argo” won Best Picture and shortly after returning from the Governor’s Ball, Thompson recaps a whirlwind weekend that had her hobnobbing at the Spirit Awards awards on Saturday then walking the red carpet at Sunday’s Oscars. Rough life, to be sure.

In television news, it turns out most the of the hour-long network dramas premiering at mid-season have failed to find an audience. Maybe now that Nielsen is including online streaming in their ratings viewership will rise for some of these shows, but we wouldn’t count on it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Billboard revamping music charts to include YouTube views, Shia LaBeouf drops out of his Broadway debut and Google’s plans for music streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 181: Why The Grammys Telecast Matters More Than Ever

February 11, 2013

While winning a Grammy Award can boost a musician’s record sales temporarily, a knockout performance during the widely viewed ceremony can launch a career. Simply ask Mumford & Sons who stole the show during the 2011 telecast and on Sunday took home the 2013 Grammy for Album of the Year. Will the Lumineers, who performed at this year’s ceremony, follow in their footsteps?

David Wild, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, helped write the Grammy telecast as he has for the past 12 years. He joins us to discuss how the show was put together, working with host LL Cool J and some of the elements that came off without a hitch (projecting images onto Carrie Underwood’s dress comes to mind). Wild even reveals John Mayer’s secret life as a joke writer.

Meanwhile, digital downloads are already outpacing physical sales in music and will surely do so with books and movies in the not too distant future. But what happens when you want to sell off all those media downloads in the now non-existent digital secondhand market? Amazon is trying to patent technology that will make such sales possible.

Of course we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how “The Walking Dead” continues to increase viewership, an end to Don Johnson’s lawsuit over “Nash Bridges” and why some concerts may be sold out before tickets ever go on sale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 180: Binge-Viewing Is Transforming The Way We Watch Television

February 4, 2013

With new streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime popping up all the time, we now have the ability to watch entire seasons of episodic television series all at once.  Now Netflix is taking binge-viewing one step further by releasing all 13-episodes of their original drama series “House of Cards” at once.  Dawn Chmielewski of the Los Angeles Times explains how the trend is altering narrative structures, existing revenue models and the entire television landscape.

Speaking of television, the Super Bowl proved once again to be a huge ratings bonanza with more than 108 million viewers tuning in to the football championship game.  Unfortunately a power outage delayed the airing of a post-game television show which had hoped to get a boost from carryover viewers.

Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” continues to top the worldwide box office, leading a pack of Oscar contenders that continues to attract big audiences well into the new year.

Of course we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week including news about a film version of the hit series “Entourage”, plans for subscription channels on YouTube and Ticketmaster (sort of) ditches its horrible security system.

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