Showbiz Sandbox 261: Sony Hack Gives New Meaning To The Term Box Office Bomb

December 16, 2014

As if Sony Pictures didn’t have enough to worry about with all their corporate emails and documents being leaked by hackers, now the perpetrators of the cybercrime have threatened movie theaters showing “The Interview” with terrorist attacks. What started out as a voyeuristic peek at the inner workings of a Hollywood studio has turned into a far more serious international incident. This has left the media questioning their own ethics and culpability for originally publishing portions of Sony’s stolen data.

With Sony’s dilemma getting so much attention, the announcement of this year’s Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations seemed rather subdued and tame by comparison. Maybe that’s because an awards season front runner has yet to emerge, or possibly because everyone is just tired of award shows.

Thanks to a listener email, we also discuss why the difference between screens and theaters matters when tallying up box office. The two words are often improperly used interchangeably.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s final show, the latest inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this year’s lack of platinum albums.

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Showbiz Sandbox 243: United They Stand – SAG-AFTRA Forges Ground-Breaking Contract

July 7, 2014

Two years after merging their unions, and with their current contracts set to expire within hours, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with studios and producers for a new three-year contract. Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and contributing editor at the Hollywood Reporter, discusses the proposed deal and what improvements actors managed to secure.

Music sales, on the other hand, aren’t improving at all. Nielsen reports that album and digital download sales for the first half of 2014 are down significantly. Could the increase in on demand music streaming be the cause?

Movies aren’t faring much better so far this year, at least not in North America and Germany where box office is down 12% and 8% respectively. Is something amiss with this summer’s blockbuster releases, or is setting new earnings records every year simply unrealistic?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how the characters from “Frozen” are crossing over to television, why cable set-top boxes gobble up so much energy and The Who plan on saying a long, slow goodbye during yet another one of their farewell tours.

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Showbiz Sandbox Special Episode: To Each Their Own Cannes Experience

May 22, 2013

With selections from world renown filmmakers like the Coen Brothers, Asghar Farhadi, Jim Jarmusch, Baz Luhrmann, Alexander Payne, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh and Jia Zhangke, this year’s Cannes Film Festival is one of the most anticipated in recent memory.

Stephen Garrett is in Cannes this year as both a journalist covering for media outlets such as the New York Observer, and also as the head of Jump Cut, an advertising firm that specializes in producing trailers for foreign, independent and documentary films. Even at the halfway point in the festival he’s seen upwards of two dozen films and joins us to discuss some of the highlights and news items coming out of this year’s Cannes.

On the other hand, filmmaker Andrew Einspruch of Wild Pure Heart Productions is in Cannes to participate in the annual market. As he meets with sales agents, buyers and distributors in an attempt to sell his next movie, Einspruch hasn’t been able to see a single film.

It just goes to show how every attendee at the Cannes Film Festival has a different and unique experience.


Showbiz Sandbox 62: The Secret Behind Hollywood’s Accounting Practices

July 12, 2010

How is it the last Harry Potter film can gross $938 million but still lose $130 million? Journalist and author Edward Jay Epstein joins us to unravel some of Hollywood’s quirky accounting practices. He’s written two books on the subject; The Hollywood Economist: The Hidden Financial Reality Behind the Movies and The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood.

“Despicable Me” topped the box office though the amount it took in from 3D screens was rather low. Could audiences be tiring of paying exorbitant 3D ticket prices? Meanwhile, Miramax finally seems to have found a buyer and Lions Gate is trying to make piece with activist investor Carl Icahn.

The Emmy nominations were announced last week and we’ll fill you in on whose up for the television’s big awards. Over in the world of music Pollstar announced that concert ticket sales are down 15% for the first half of the year.

During our Big Deal or Big Whoop segment we race through a number of top entertainment headlines, including Roman Polanski’s release, Lindsay Lohan’s jail time and Mel Gibson getting dumped by his agency. Maybe Gibson can find some work on YouTube, which plans to offer $5 million in grants to select content partners.


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Showbiz Sandbox 39: Chez Sundance

January 25, 2010

Co-host Karen Woodward puts a moratorium on any more talk of “Avatar”, James Cameron’s 3D sci-fi epic which continues to break box office records. So instead, we skip straight to Sundance, where the atmosphere has gone from recession (last year) to depression (this year). J. Sperling Reich is in the snowy, cold ski town and fills us in on the movies everyone in Park City is buzzing about.

If you can’t make it to Sundance this year, no worries, you’ll be able to catch a few of the festival’s selections on YouTube.

Also in movie news, anti-smoking activists are claiming that Sigourney Weaver’s line “Where’s my damn cigarette” in “Avatar” should have earned the film an R rating. What set of rules is the MPAA going by when they come up with some of their absurd ratings?

After a brief fly by of the SAG Awards, we head over to television land.  Things have calmed down in the Conan vs. Leno vs. NBC war, but Michael Giltz and Karen must not have gotten the memo. They argue over who was wronged more by the whole debacle. Meanwhile, Conan O’Brien hosted his last “Tonight Show” on Friday.  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 37: Conan and Leno’s Late Shift Shrift

January 11, 2010

It’s official: Simon Cowell will be leaving “American Idol” this season and NBC (finally!) admits that airing “The Jay Leno Show” in primetime five nights a week was a mistake. Cowell is headed off to start a new reality talent show, “X Factor”, while Jay Leno is headed back to his old late night time slot, at least for a half-hour. But where will Conan O’Brien’s tonight show end up? Right now NBC wants to push him back a half hour.

In theaters, “Avatar” just will not go away. It stays firm at the top of the box office again this week. “Daybreakers” staring Ethan Hawke, also did well in its debut, but the Amy Adams vehicle “Leap Year” didn’t leap anywhere.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tries to sell us on 3D television and video rental service Netflix reaches an important agreement with Warner Bros.

David Colker, a business reporter covering technology for the Los Angeles Times gives us the low down on CES, espcially all the 3D televisions announced at the show (which aren’t even available for sale yet). Do consumers even want 3D television? More importantly, how are we prepared to wear those funny 3D glasses at home? Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 34: Hollywood’s Box Office Billions Set New Record

December 21, 2009

We are joined this week by two of the film industry’s top box office pundits, Paul Dergarabedian of and Daniel Frankel of They help us understand how the North American box office surpassed $10 billion in 2009 while releasing few films during an economic recession. Of course, we also touch on “Avatar’s” opening weekend box office and the worldwide spin it’s distributor claims makes the film a huge hit.

But we promise this week’s episode won’t be entirely about Avatar! We also discuss the untimely death of actress Brittany Murphy and the rumor mongering it set off among online tabloids. The Golden Globe nominations were announced mid week. Were there any surprises? What about snubs? Which noms will carry over to the Oscars, and what can be done to get audiences to actually watch the Oscars?

There’s also a ton of television and music news, such as the rumor that Simon Cowell might leave “American Idol” (oh no!), the list of next year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (ABBA!) and an old Rage Against The Machine song beating out this year’s winner of “X Factor” on the U.K. singles charts during Christmas week (huh?!). Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 31: Blind Sided By Adam Lambert’s Double Standard

November 30, 2009

While we all still may be sluggish from all the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, the North American box office sure wasn’t. It set a record for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as once again “The Blind Side” surprises everyone. The Sandra Bullock movie defied expectations to earn another $40 million over the five-day period, almost topping “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” as the winner this weekend. Proof positive that Sandra Bullock is a movie star.

So is George Clooney, whose “Up In The Air” opens on Friday. According to Claudia Eller of the Los Angeles Times the film is proving to be a marketing challenge for its distributor, Paramount. Apparently the studio is afraid Jason Reitman’s humorous drama about corporate downsizing may touch a raw nerve. But how could this critically acclaimed movie be a marketing challenge? We’ve got two words that might help Paramount’s advertising campaign: George. Clooney. Sheesh, maybe we should be marketers.

Actually, maybe we should become linguistics experts instead. USC linguistics professor Paul R. Frommer was brought in by James Cameron – writer and director of a little upcoming release called “Avatar” – to develop the language of the 10-foot tall blue Smurfs – um. . . aliens – who inhabit Pandora, the setting for the film’s conflict.  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 26: Hollywood Struggles With New Business Models

October 26, 2009

Freelance entertainment journalist Todd Gilchrist joins us this week to talk about movies, music, and journalism. (But he recused himself from discussing TV because he doesn’t watch a lot of it. [gasp!]) Fine. We’ll start with movies then.

“Paranormal Activity” took over the box office this week. The film has been so well received that Paramount, which distributed the film, may produce a sequel. If a film is this successful, is a studio almost obligated to make a sequel? (And will it be as bad as “Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows”?)

In other news involving Paramount , the studio has angered members of the National Association of Theatre Owners by releasing “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” on DVD only 88 days after its theatrical run. It also set the Jeremy Piven comedy “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard” for DVD-rental release 88 days from its theatrical bow, not that anyone wants to see it. “We don’t know what Paramount is up to,” NATO president John Fithian said. “But it’s highly objectionable.”  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 24: How To Get A Hero Complex

October 12, 2009

Our special guest this week is Geoff Boucher, full time entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times and part time Wookiee. Geoff began the popular L.A. Times blog, Hero Complex, devoted to caped crusaders, zombies, wizards and all things superhero. With a tag line that reads “for your inner fanboy”, Hero Complex has quietly become a huge hit and recently won the award for best online commentary among large websites from the Online News Association.

Over the last week, Geoff wrote a series of posts on the blog that look at film franchises entering their fourth turn on the silver screen, including “Lord Of The Rings”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Spider-Man”, and “X-Men”. (Check out the reader poll: ‘The Hobbit’ Will Triumph But ‘X-Men’ and ‘Pirates’ Franchises Should Quit Now)

Meanwhile, at this weekend’s North American box office, moviegoers made “Couples Retreat” the number one film, followed by “Zombieland” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. The big surprise of the weekend was the little indie film “Paranormal Activity”. Made for peanuts, the film is now raking in millions based solely off a social networking marketing campaign. That might be why Michael Giltz and Karen Woodward are dying to see the movie. . . no pun intended. (See the movie, you’ll get the joke).  Read more


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