Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 304: The Music of 2015 Was Good, Not Great

Sal Nunziato, former co-owner of the shuttered record store NYCD, is now a musician and popular music blogger. He joins us to weigh in on his favorite albums of 2015 and unlike Rolling Stone magazine, Adele’s latest release didn’t make Sal’s list. Who better to get a state of the industry report on the music business?

The end-of-year awards season continued to kick into high gear as the Golden Globes announced their nominees. The SAG Awards may matter more however, since some of the guild’s members actually vote for the Oscars. Even after these nominations the Oscar race continues to be wide open.

With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opening this week it’s impossible to avoid news about the eagerly anticipated sequel. Disney’s secrecy over the project reached new heights when the studio held its press junket without first showing the film to the media.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Melissa McCarthy’s sitcom is canceled, “Dirty Dancing” is being adapted into a television musical and Apple presses pause on its plans to offer a live streaming television service.

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

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 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 179: How To Gamble And Win On Broadway

This year alone there are at least 15 new shows being mounted on Broadway including adaptations of movies such as “Diner” and “Big Fish”. At one point or another all were in search of financial backing, however well known productions with big name stars often don’t pay dividends. We review which upcoming stagings smart, experienced Broadway investors should be banking on.

A very successful Sundance Film Festival came to an end last week as distributors left Park City having acquired a dozen or more independent films. We discuss the reason behind the frenzied sales activity and why some films came with steep seven-figure price tags.

Since we’re on the subject of paying out or investing money, it looks as if the cable bill for Los Angelenos will be going up again thanks to the L.A. Dodgers deal with Time Warner Cable for a new sports channel. Does one market really need six sports networks. More importantly, why are the customers in a single market forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Warner Bros. new CEO, JJ Abrams signs on to direct the new “Star Wars” and Fox begs viewers to use their DVRs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 174: Is “The Hobbit” A Death Knell for 3D Movies?

All of the talk surrounding the release of “The Hobbit” was over high frame rate and whether audiences would reject a crisper image. It may have been more appropriate to discuss whether audiences have already shunned 3D. Only 49% of audiences chose to see the film in 3D over opening weekend. If moviegoers aren’t willing to see a film shot and meant to be seen in 3D, is the format ultimately doomed?

“The Hobbit” was noticeably absent on a number of important year-end top film lists. Nor was it among the nominations for the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, which were announced last week.

The fantasy book from “The Hobbit” is adapted has been a perennial best seller, but with the explosion of e-book readers future generations may not even know what a book is. Can e-books and print co-exist?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including this year’s Rock Hall of Fame inductees, the top grossing concert tours of 2012 and (finally!) an end to loud television commercials.

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Showbiz Sandbox 166: How MoviePass Unlimited Moviegoing Service Really Works

When MoviePass announced an unlimited moviegoing subscription service last year it faced stiff resistance from cinema owners and film studios. Now, MoviePass has relaunched with a revamped offering that doesn’t need approval from either group. Stacy Spikes, the CEO of MoviePass, joins us to explain why this time the company will succeed.

Over in the world of music, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this year’s nominees. The likes of Randy Newman, Donna Summer, Public Enemy and Rush head up what has been considered by many to be a very weak list. At least this year however fans get to vote for their favorite nominees.

Meanwhile, Broadway has been consumed with the story of how “Rebecca”, a musical based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, went up in flames just weeks before opening. Despite having major talent enlisted to write, direct and choreograph, not to mention an ongoing ad campaign, it turns out on of the investors behind the production may have been completely made up.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a huge debut for Mumford and Sons second album, why MTV is getting out of the “Jersey Shore” business and how Lil Wayne bested Elvis (sort of).

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Showbiz Sandbox 134: Video-On-Demand Rides To The Rescue At Sundance

This year’s Sundance Film Festival came to a close last weekend awarding top prizes to a wide range of movies. Independent film industry veteran Michael Tuckman sizes up this year’s festival and highlights some of its most noteworthy movies. Tuckman explains how video-on-demand has become a big part of the distribution strategy for such films, providing them with a wider audience than traditional art houses.

IFPI also showed up with some good news last week reporting that global digital music sales were up eight percent in 2011. Subscription services such as Pandora and Spotify are helping increase revenue, though they are also eating into the advertising dollars usually reserved for local radio stations.

Meanwhile, Broadway is gearing up for its spring season with a glut of hot new productions, making it difficult to pick a front-runner for Best Musical (the most valuable – if not the only valuable – Tony Award). Best Play is also up for grabs and none of the newcomers are slam dunks.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including, Simon Cowell retooling the “X-Factor” with new hosts and judges, an upbeat earnings report from Netflix and how Ticketmaster bungled the sale of tickets to Bruce Springsteen’s latest tour… again.

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Showbiz Sandbox 130: It’s The Data, Stupid (or Why Live Nation Bought BigChampagne)

As 2011 comes to an end mainstream media companies continue to struggle with how to distribute their content through the Internet. That was never more apparent than this week as concert promoter Live Nation acquired BigChampagne, a media tracking and technology company. Joe Fleischer, Big Champgne’s chief marketing officer, explains why a live-event company is interested in staying on top of the latest music industry data and how the acquisition will help Live Nation better understand their customers.

Meanwhile, as SOPA and PIPA make their way through Congress, Universal Music Group caused a stir when they tried to squash news reports of their copyright infringement lawsuit against MegaUpload. Then there was comedian Louis C.K. who used digital convergence to his benefit by selling a video of his most recent stand-up show directly to fans, making a huge profit in the process.

Matt Damon was also muddying the waters last week by revealing the in-fighting going on behind the scenes of the”Bourne” franchise. Of course, we also cover the top entertainment news stories of the week including the Golden Globe and SAG award nominations, Howard Stern’s new television gig on “America’s Got Talent” and Madonna’s new record contract.

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Showbiz Sandbox 90: Pick Up Artists Score At Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival was held in Park City, Utah over the past two weeks and word is that this year’s official selections were well worth the trip. Just back from the festival, Anne Thompson of IndieWire’s Thompson On Hollywood blog fills us in on all the buzzworthy films and why so many of them were picked up for distribution. Could it be the death of independent film has been greatly exaggerated?

After winning top prizes at the Director’s Guild and Screen Actor’s Guild over the weekend “The King’s Speech” has overtaken “The Social Network” as the favored Best Picture Oscar winner. More often than not Academy members follow the guild’s lead when doling out trophies in major categories, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a few surprises in store.

Netflix continues to do battle with HBO, not only over the networks own content, but also over Warner Bros. films. Meanwhile, rumors abound that Amazon may soon be joining Netflix in the video streaming business.

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