Showbiz Sandbox 306: Deconstructing the 2015 Movie Box Office

Few, if any, can rival Paul Dergarabedian when it comes to analyzing the film industry’s global box office. Rentrak’s senior media analyst has been running movie numbers for upwards of 20 years now and is a regularly quoted box office pundit. Dergarabedian joins us to discuss how 2015 turned into a record breaking year at the box office all over the world.

We cover everything from how the winners at last year’s box office left little for the losers to the increasing role social media plays in the fortunes of any given movie, from the importance of international grosses to the record shattering “Star Wars” sequel. One big question is how 2016 could ever top last year’s figures or if that even matters.

We wind up in the music business where lawsuits are always a good indication on the issues affecting the industry. Two big new lawsuits target Spotify and Ticketmaster. We’ll explain what they are all about… and predict if they will actually make it to trial.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why The Beatles agreed to put their music on streaming services, how Taylor Swift’s concert tour topped the charts last year and the sexual assault charge against Bill Cosby.

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Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 292: There Is Simply Too Much Television

Television network executives have begun publicly acknowledging a predicament their audiences recognized some time ago; there is simply too much television. In the midst of what has been dubbed a “golden age” of television, viewers are becoming reluctant to sign up for yet another new or existing series.

In fact, John Landgraf, the head of FX Networks, recently told the Television Critics Association that the glut of TV content means it has become more difficult to “cut through the clutter and create real buzz” when producing a show. With so much programming available, great shows can often go unnoticed or take longer to find an audience.

Then there are countries in which content is being suppressed. In Russia a politically active Ukrainian filmmaker was recently handed a 20 year prison sentence drawing international criticism that the charges were fabricated. Bangladesh meanwhile has banned a banned a new movie because it shed light on the country’s billion dollar garment industry, which is well known for exploiting its workers.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Warner Bros. is headed to China, Spongebob Squarepants is headed to Broadway and how Netflix is about to lose more than 1000 movie titles.

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Showbiz Sandbox 267: VOD Helps Heat Up Sundance

Distributors went on a buying spree at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only due to the quality of the movies, but also because of new-found revenue from VOD services. We give you a rundown of the titles that were acquired, how much was spent on them and whether there is any hope they will ever make that money back for distributors.

Speaking of money, musician Sly Stone could be $5 million richer after winning a court ruling last week against his former manager who he claims withheld royalties.

Singer Sam Smith, on the other hand, won’t be trying to cheat Tom Petty out of royalties for his song, “Stay With Me”. The artist agreed the song was similar to one of Petty’s past hits and added the legendary rocker to the writing credits.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including yet another Super Bowl television ratings record, when we can expect the next “Game of Thrones” book from author George R.R. Martin, and “Empire” is becoming a much needed hit series for Fox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 266: Sundance Becomes A Little More International

Though the Sundance Film Festival has long been one of the more important festivals held each year, it was primarily known as a launching pad for American independent films and as such international attendance was minimal. That seems to have changed over the past few years as Sundance selections started receiving Oscar nominations. Now industry professionals from all over the world show up at the festival to find the next “Whiplash”, “Precious” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

We didn’t have to travel from halfway around the world to attend this year’s Sundance, but we are in Park City and will fill you in on all the buzzworthy films, major acquisitions and festival news.

Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild Awards muddied the waters in the current race for the Best Picture Academy Award. While everyone assumed “Boyhood” would walk off with the prize on its way to Oscar victory, “Birdman” swept in and unexpectedly stole it. Whether this is any indication as to how Oscar voters will cast their ballots is questionable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is headed to court over his record contract, how James Patterson is promoting his new book and Mrs. Doubtfire is headed to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 259: Sony Hack Reveals Hollywood’s Digital Dilemma

Digital technology helped Hollywood significantly reduce the production cost of movies that overflow with stunning visual effects. One major downside to such technological advances is how easy it has become to steal, duplicate and distribute pristine copies of digital content. Movie studios were reminded just how vulnerable they are after a cyberattack against Sony Pictures resulted in several upcoming films being leaked online.

Netflix, on the other hand, delivers digital content legally, even if some of its subscribers happen to be access the service surreptitiously from countries where the company doesn’t operate. Netflix announced it would be launching soon in two such countries; Australia and New Zealand.

On Broadway meanwhile, productions are gearing up for what is usually a busy holiday season. A few new musicals however are off to slow starts. We’ll give you a rundown on how all the shows are doing and which are worth seeing.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Russia’s proposed boycott of Hollywood movies, why Hasbro ditched Dreamworks Animation and how Apple intends to bundle Beats Music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 252: Crouching Netflix, Hidden IMAX and the Myth of Broken Release Windows

The Weinstein Co. stunned the entertainment industry last week by announcing they would distribute the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times explains, the plan only has one problem; movie theaters refuse to show any film that opens day-and-date on home video or video-on-demand. This begs the question, if a movie never opens theatrically, was it’s release window really broken?

Netflix continued to make additional headlines later in the week by signing a deal with actor Adam Sandler to make four original movies for the streaming service. We discuss whether Netflix is changing the Hollywood paradigm or simply becoming one more buyer of premium content.

While Netflix is leaning into the future, director Christopher Nolan is taking a more old fashioned approach by releasing his upcoming movie on actual film. Select theaters showing “Interstellar” on analogue celluloid will get the film two days early. But will theater owners, who recently converted to digital cinema, still know how to thread a 35mm projector?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Saturday morning cartoons, why U2 released their latest album on vinyl and how Facebook is helping “Twilight” live on through a series of short films.

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Showbiz Sandbox 251: In the Digital Age, Content Rights Are King

Whether an illustrator creating legendary comic book characters for Marvel or a 1960’s pop group that hasn’t had a hit in decades, owning the rights to the content one produces has never been more important thanks to emerging digital distribution platforms. Unfortunately, determining who owns the rights for specific content is becoming increasingly more difficult.

For example, last week’s landmark court ruling against satellite radio provider Sirius XM could mean the company has to start paying public performance royalties on pre-1972 sound recordings. The case has huge copyright implications not just for Sirius XM, but also to streaming radio services like Pandora.

Access to content is likely the reason Softbank is making a play to acquire DreamWorks Animation. Should a deal be struck then only time will tell whether there is actually any synergy between the animation studio and the Japanese conglomerate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the approval of drones for film production, new stars for the upcoming season of “True Detective” and remixing actor Stephen Fry’s new memoir.

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Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 242: Supreme Court Fumbles Aereo Ruling

Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that the television streaming service Aereo violated copyright laws by using mini-antennas to deliver broadcast signals to paying subscribers. Denise Howell, an intellectual property lawyer and host of “This Week in Law”, outlines a decision that will have long term and wide-ranging effects for the entertainment and technology industries.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are attempting to alter their demographics by inviting younger, more ethnically diverse artists to join the ranks of those who nominate and vote for the Oscars each year. What’s truly remarkable is some of the legendary veterans who are just now receiving invites.

Meanwhile, as the publishing industry watches Hachette Book Group go to war with Amazon over the price of their books, the country of France is trying to protect its bookstores by passing a law meant to combat the online retailers influence.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the gigantic opening of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, why this summer’s domestic box office is considered anemic and “Community” heads to Yahoo for its sixth season.

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