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 188: Remembering Roger – Personal Recollections of the World’s Most Famous Film Critic

The death of film critic Roger Ebert last week after a lengthy and public battle with cancer was followed by an endless stream of heartfelt appreciations. Arguably one of the most recognized and influential movie critics in the world, few were aware of Ebert’s generosity, especially when it came to fellow critics and journalists.

David Poland of Movie City News and Anne Thompson of Indiewire join our hosts in discussing a few of the personal memories each has of Ebert from spending time with him over the years. For instance, did you know filmmaker Michael Moore credits Ebert with helping spread the word about the his first movie? Or that Ebert was an early investor in a little web startup named Google?

Meanwhile, late night television dominated the entertainment news last week as NBC officially announced they would not be renewing Jay Leno’s contract as host of the “Tonight Show” in order to bring in the younger Jimmy Fallon. The move has been widely hailed as a boneheaded attempt to win ratings in key demos as competition increases, but in the end Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” might still bring in more viewers.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” sequel, “American Idol’s” declining ratings and why take-down notices issued by movie studios are actually helping pirates, not hindering them.

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Showbiz Sandbox 132: Moviegoing Is Alive And Well In The Modern Age

According to mainstream media, nobody goes to the movies anymore. However news about the death of movie theaters has been greatly exaggerated according to John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theater Owners. In fact, statistical trends for the last three decades show that movie attendance is actually on the rise. In a discussion that touches on everything from the price of tickets to digital cinema technology, Fithian reveals the truth behind today’s movie going experience.

Meanwhile, the Golden Globes handed out this year’s awards. The big story wasn’t necessarily who won awards, but rather which stars were victims of host Ricky Gervais’ scathing humor. Ironically the comedian managed to steal the spotlight again by being less insulting than last year… go figure!

There is some fresh news about two antipiracy bills making their way through Congress now that the Obama administration says they won’t support them.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Spin magazine intends to review new music releases, a slight delay for the “Avatar” and Hulu’s plan for original content.

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Showbiz Sandbox 128: Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas

Tis the season for holiday movies and there is no shortage of Yuletide titles to choose from. Thankfully film critic-at-large Alonso Duralde comes to the rescue by sifting through decades of Christmas movies in his book “Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas“. He highlights some of the classic, and not-so-classic, films worth watching during the holidays and explains why this year’s “Arthur Christmas” is having trouble finding an audience.

It’s also the time of year when acclaimed movies and music from the past 12-months begin picking up nominations for annual awards. Last week nominees were announced for the Independent Spirit Awards and the Grammys with many more to come.

Over on Broadway ten shows earned more than $1 million during Thanksgiving week as the theater going season kicks into full gear. The hit musical “Book of Mormon” even turned a profit thanks in part to high ticket prices.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories, including Madonna’s Super Bowl gig, the end of Napster and why musician Elvis Costello doesn’t want you to buy his new boxed set.

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Showbiz Sandbox 126: Foot In Mouth Disease Sweeps Through Hollywood

Getting publicity in Hollywood can be a very difficult task. If you are an A-list director like Brett Ratner or a hot actor like Ashton Kutcher however, all you need to do is make a bigoted statement or fire off an ignorant Twitter post and you’ll get more ink than you ever wanted. Ratner’s homophobic slur forced him to resign as producer of next year’s Oscars, while Kutcher’s uninformed opinion on current events caused him to rethink his social media participation. Has the entertainment industry become overly sensitive or do its inhabitants just have no class? We try to figure out what all the fuss is about.

The other big news of the week was the sale of record label EMI to Universal Music Group and Sony. EMI’s owner, Citibank, decided to split the record label from its publishing arm in an effort to get the deal passed antitrust regulators. As the music industry contracts from four major record companies to three, what will it mean for indie artists and their fans?

Broadway may also be undergoing some changes soon. Long running musicals such as “Mamma Mia!”, “Chicago” and “Mary Poppins” seem to be fading fast and may need to make way for new productions such as a revival of “Porgy & Bess”, “Evita” featuring Ricky Martin and a stage version of “Bonnie & Clyde”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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Showbiz Sandbox 71: Missing Good Movies In Toronto, Eh?

Trying to record a podcast when your hosts are half a world apart in three different time zones is no easy task, but still we persevered. We even managed to land Megan Garvey from the Los Angeles Times as a special guest. She tells us all about the Times’ new iPhone app which provides an interactive tour of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Host Michael Giltz is at the Toronto International Film Festival and he fills us in on all the movies that people are buzzing about. Unfortunately, he’s been shut out or has missed most of the future Oscar contenders that make their annual debut at the festival.

The MTV Video Music Awards were held over the weekend and Lady Gaga was a big winner. The pop sensation showed up in a dress made of red meat and walked off with eight trophies.

Big Deal or Big Whoop is abbreviated this week due to travel schedules, but we still manage to fill you in on some of the week’s top entertainment news, including a return to “At The Movies” for Roger Ebert and Oprah’s fading ratings. During Inside Baseball we discuss the Hollywood Reporter’s decision to go from a daily trade paper to a weekly magazine.

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Showbiz Sandbox 61: Andrew Garfield Fills Spider-Man’s Reboots

That “Twilight Saga: Eclipse: wound up at the top of the box office over the Fourth of July holiday weekend with $280 million worldwide was not a big shock, however the casting of Andrew Garfield to play Spider-Man in the next installment of the franchise came as a surprise. Entertainment journalist Michael Giltz has been following the 26-year-old actor for several years, but the selection of the unknown had most industry insiders searching for his resume.

In all likelihood the next “Spider-Man” film will be shot in 3D though the format is not a guarantee of box office gold. Just ask M. Night Shyamalan whose “Last Airbender” had a disappointing opening despite being converted to 3D in post-production. Film critic Roger Ebert was not alone in trashing the film.

This week also saw Larry King announce his retirement from the nightly talk show he’s hosted on CNN for 25 years. King’s program has been slipping in ratings recently, as have late night talkers hosted by Jay Leno and David Letterman. But viewership continues to grow on cable television, not to mention on Hulu which will begin offering monthly subscriptions for expanded content offerings.

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Showbiz Sandbox 47: Movie Ticket Prices Get Super Sized

Another 3D film took the top spot at the box office this past weekend – “How To Train Your Dragon”. It knocked the 3D “Alice In Wonderland” out of first place after three weeks. As well, in order to play the film in 3D, theater owners were forced to take screens away from “Avatar” which caused it to fall out of the top 10 for the first time since its release last December.

Though 3D films seem to be all the rage these days a question remains over how much audiences are willing to pay to see them. This past week several theater chains raised their prices for 3D and 3D Imax tickets, some as much as 26%. Lauren Schuker of the Wall Street Journal drops by to fill us in on why movie ticket prices are rising and how it might affect this year’s record breaking box office returns.

Speaking of box office returns, thanks to the Cantor Exchange you will soon be able to place a wager on how much money you think a movie will make during its first four weeks in release. Though not if the MPAA has anything to say about it. Unfortunately, you won’t have the movie review program “At The Movies” to help your handicapping efforts. The show that launched the careers of film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert was canceled. Have no fear, Ebert has plans to launch a brand new show.  Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 47: Movie Ticket Prices Get Super Sized

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