Showbiz Sandbox 313: Is Kanye West Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

February 22, 2016

Kanye West is making headlines for exhibiting manic behavior around the upcoming release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Is it erratic behavior or a canny promotional tactic? And is West’s album actually finished, or are the many changes he’s making before its official release all part of an intentional, yet public, artistic process.

In more serious news, music heavyweights are beginning to speak out about the court battle between artist Kesha and music producer Dr. Luke. The musician is attempting to break free of a record contract which ties her to a man Kesha says “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her for years.

Meanwhile, we’re going to look at a worldwide box office phenomenon that has set records in the United States and around the world. Not “Deadpool”, but rather China’s “The Mermaid,” which had the highest per screen average of any movie in North America this past week.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new owner of movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon’s plans to distribute Woody Allen’s next movie and new rules for the Eurovision song contest.

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Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

November 3, 2015

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

March 23, 2015

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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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 167: The Digital Age Crushes Variety

October 15, 2012

Last week the venerable trade paper Variety, which has been covering the entertainment industry for more than 100 years, was sold to Penske Media Corporation for $25 million. Dana Harris, the editor-in-chief of Indiewire, spent 11 years at Variety and she joins us to discuss the past, present and future of a news outlet that has struggled to adapt in an online world.

Of course, the music world is quite familiar with how digital technology can disrupt existing markets. Digital radio pioneer Pandora is pushing legislation regarding the royalties they pay to artists. This past week they made public some the big checks they’ve been writing to individual musicians.

The royalties for a bunch of super heroes are also being disputed. Stan Lee Media is suing Marvel to get a cut of all that “Avengers” money and the daughter of Superman creator Jerry Seigel is duking it out with Warner Bros. over copyright claims.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a break for Louis CK, CNN gets into the documentary film business, and how New Zealand is literally minting money for “The Hobbit”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 153: Hollywood Loses Another Battle In The Copyright War

July 10, 2012

Fearing that it would restrict freedom of speech, basic civil rights and an open Internet, the European Parliament voted down the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) last week. The move effectively kills the international anti-piracy legislation that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have lobbied so hard for. We explain what ACTA’s defeat means for Hollywood and what anti-piracy measures you may be hearing about next.

It’s hard to believe piracy is affecting the entertainment industry. Music sales, which have been in a slow decline over the past decade, are actually up this year thanks to digital sales. Movie box office is also up with studios such as Disney having already earned $1 billion in North America alone.

Billion was also a number subscription movie service Netflix has been using a lot lately. Their customers watched more than a billion hours of content in June. That’s not only a new record for the company, but it would make them more popular than any U.S. cable network.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, Charlie Sheen’s slipping ratings and why we won’t be seeing “Raging Bull 2” anytime soon.

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Showbiz Sandbox 137: A Revealing Look At Who Votes For The Oscars

February 20, 2012

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never published a complete list of the 5,765 members who cast ballots for their annual Oscars. Despite the secrecy surrounding the Academy’s membership, Nicole Sperling worked for months with her colleagues at the Los Angeles Times to confirm 5,100 members. Sperling explains the method behind the Times’ research and some of the details they uncovered. Did you know only 2% of members are under the age of 40? Neither did we.

While the Academy Awards may celebrate some of the big critical and financial successes of the past year, Aaron Rich, the gentleman blogger behind All The Movies I Watch joins us to discuss some of his top movies of 2011, many of which were overlooked by Oscar voters.

If you watch the Oscars telecast this weekend you’ll probably be doing so through a cable or satellite signal. Aero, a new company backed by the likes of Barry Diller, hopes to change that by providing those wishing to cut their cable cord with a special antenna capable of receiving broadcast television. That is if the inevitable law suits don’t shut them down first.

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Showbiz Sandbox 63: Mel Gibson Wishes It Were All A Dream

July 19, 2010

Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated film “Inception” jumped to the top of the North American box office upon release. The follow-up to the director’s blockbuster “The Dark Knight” has some critics buzzing about a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Academy Award nominations are the least of Mel Gibson’s problems. After being caught on tape screaming obscenities and death threats at his ex-girlfriend, the actor and filmmaker should be happy if his next film,“The Beaver”, simply makes it into theaters.

A number of important court decisions were handed down this past week having to do with First Amendment rights. These include a ruling about “fleeting epithets” and whether broadcasters can be fined for airing them. An appeals court told the Federal Communications Commission their definition of “indecency” was too vague and may encroach on the freedom of speech.

We go over all the week’s top entertainment headlines during Big Deal or Big Whoop, including why the R.I.A.A. has spent $17 million suing music fans only to collect $391k, whether Tom Cruise will be cast in “Mission Impossible IV” and e-book sales outpacing those of real books on Amazon. Read more

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Showbiz Sandbox 50: Coachella Gets Its Crowd On

April 20, 2010

This year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival was hot, sweaty and packed with great music from more than 120 bands. Though an Icelandic volcano prevented some bands from traveling to Coachella this past weekend, a record setting sold out crowd of 75,000 attended the festival in the Southern California desert. Among them were Todd Martens, the co-editor of the Los Angeles Times Pop & Hiss blog and Lauren Bradshaw, the co-editor of BuzzSugar (not to mention our very own J. Sperling Reich). They stop by to fill us in on which musical acts were worth catching and which should have stayed home.

Meanwhile the superhero comedy “Kick-Ass” opened in movie theaters last Friday, however the film did not live up to it’s name. It barely squeaked into first place over the animated 3D film, “How To Train Your Dragon”. But is “Kick-Ass” really a flop, or have we become jaded when it comes to box office analysis?

As summer draws near, so too does the end of the television season. Which shows will stick around until next fall and which will be looking at the wrong end of the network’s ax? We’ll go over all the shows which are “on the bubble”.  Read more

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