Showbiz Sandbox 305: Should “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” Box Office Records Require An Asterisk?

The release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shattered box office records the world over and became the biggest movie opening of all time by earning $529 million. We explain why in countries such as Japan and South Korea, the latest “Star Wars” not only didn’t win the weekend, but in some cases earned less than earlier installments of the franchise. We also look at the breakdown of which formats audiences favored when buying tickets.

George Lucas’ original “Star Wars” movie was released in 1977 and was added to the National Film Registry in 1989. We weigh in on the annual list of films added to the registry by the Library of Congress, charged with selecting new entrants. It always makes for a fascinating mix; we’ll discuss what made this year’s cut there and why. Hint: It’s not always artistry that counts… and no we’re not looking at you “Top Gun.”

In music news, it turns out online radio services such as Pandora will soon be paying more to license songs. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to prevent her fans from having to pay more to purchase tickets to see her in concert. We’ll tell you about the growing backlash against the secondary market for concert tickets and what some artists are doing about it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how “Star Wars” bumped Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie out of a historic movie theater, Howard Stern signs a new deal with SiriusXM and the list of this year’s inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Showbiz Sandbox 285: Why the Film Academy Is Becoming More Diverse and International

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited over 300 new members to join their ranks this year, many noted not only the number of young women and minorities among the group, but also 36 international invitees. According to Oscars pundit Scott Feinberg of the Hollywood Reporter, that’s the highest number of new international members than at any other time in the Academy’s 88-year history.

We explain why the organization is looking to filmmakers and craftspeople from around the world when adding to their ranks, as well as how that might change the demographics of the Academy moving forward. At a time when international box office has never been more dominant and important, it is nice to see the Academy’s membership become a little more diverse.

E-commerce giant Amazon is also making a few changes, especially in the way it pays authors of titles in its monthly book rental offering. Instead of paying writers for every book a user starts but may not finish, the company will pay based upon how many actual pages a subscriber reads.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why NBC and Univision fired Donald Trump, Harry Potter heads to London’s West End and Apple signs a deal with indie record labels for its new music streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 258: Bill Cosby Gets Schooled In Celebrity Social Media

A social media campaign meant to promote Bill Cosby’s Netflix special seriously backfired last week after allegations the comedian sexually assaulted several women resurfaced. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, stops by to explain what went so wrong and how the past can haunt celebrities who carelessly try their hand at social marketing.

Jumping on Twitter or Facebook may look easy, but if not thought out properly a social media campaign can quickly misfire in a major way. Woodward provides pointers on how to avoid the missteps Cosby made and some basic principles for how celebrities should use social media.

We also hear from a movie distributor who educates us on the math used to forecast the box office for a film’s theatrical release. Turns out it’s not easy to open a movie to more than $100 million, but it’s not impossible either. In fact, the long-held belief that lengthy running times present a big obstacle to nine-figure debuts isn’t quite accurate.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the launch of YouTube’s streaming music service, Hachette and Amazon settle their dispute over e-books and Sony makes it easier to cut your cable cord.

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

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 200: Should George Clooney Run For President?

Hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb began buying up Sony stock earlier this year and is now pressuring the electronics manufacturer to spin-off its entertainment divisions. After comparing two of Sony’s summer releases to historic flops such as “Waterworld”, actor/director/producer George Clooney could take no more. In an intelligent, coherent and well thought out rant, Clooney argues that, “ A guy from a hedge fund entity is the single least qualified person to be making these kinds of judgments.”

Karen Woodward, our former co-host, joins us for our 200th episode and was quick to point out that Clooney not only sounded smart in his statements, but also like a future political candidate. Given the state of American politics however, Clooney might find the back stabbing nature of Hollywood more friendly.

These days it seems a little political muscle is required to work in the entertainment industry. After all, Time Warner Cable has blacked out the CBS network for millions of customers over an ongoing retransmission dispute. Meanwhile, Hollywood studios haven’t been paid all year for movies they’ve released in China.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Academy’s historic new leader, a new Doctor Who and how holograms are replacing musicians at concerts in Korea.

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Showbiz Sandbox 165: Neil Young Sings The Praises Of His New Digital Music Format

Singer-songwriter Neil Young has never been a fan of digital music.  The rock legend despises the inferior audio quality of MP3s and CDs so much that he released an anthology of his of his music on Blu-Ray; the only medium that could hold digital files large enough to offer the quality Young demanded.  Taking his quest for high fidelity one step further, next year Young will launch Pono, a portable music player and audio platform that uses technology to provide studio quality sound.

Time will tell whether high quality digital audio and Young’s notoriety will be enough to attract consumers to Pono, though the Beatles aren’t waiting around to find out.  EMI is releasing the bands entire catalog of albums on vinyl LPs.  Remember those?  Now all we need is a phonograph to play them on.

Meanwhile the movie awards season has begun to heat up leaving pundits speculating whether Disney might have not one, but three, entries in this year’s Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars; “Brave”, “Frankenweenie” and “Wreck It Ralph”.  How ironic that Seth MacFarlane, creator of the hit animated television series “The Family Guy”, has been tapped to host this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

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Showbiz Sandbox 102: Why Music Videos Matter (Again)

Music videos rose to prominence in the 1980s to become on of the most important promotional vehicles for new music. As fans grew tired of watching their favorite musicians lip sync their way through elaborate videos MTV and the like stopped showing them. However, with the advent of inexpensive production equipment and the ability to reach a massive global audience via the Internet, musicians have begun churning out a new crop of innovative, and at times interactive, music videos, revitalizing an art form once written off as extinct.

In other music news, Warner Music Group was finally auctioned off for $3.3 billion. Now there is talk that the record labels new owner might scoop up EMI making Warner Music Group even larger than it is already. Meanwhile, in an attempt to reverse declining box office, concert promoters are trying to win audiences back with cheaper ticket prices and high-end acts.

Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes, two of the Internet’s most popular movie sites, were sold to Warner Bros. We debate whether the move will influence some of the reviews and recommendations the websites have become known for.

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Showbiz Sandbox 75: Hollywood Stunned By A Jackass (And It’s Not Perez Hilton!)

Everyone expected the latest installment of the low-rent “Jackass” franchise to bring in a few bucks, especially since it was filmed in 3D, but nobody expected the movie to take in $50 million in its debut weekend and set records for an October opening. Another surprise from this past week came when gossip blogger Perez Hilton told the world he would no longer “bully” or “out” celebrities on his popular website. Hilton has left everyone wondering if he is being honest, or just trying to grab a few headlines.

In television news, the big story was all about the Chilean miner rescue which drew huge ratings for cable news networks. As for some of the season’s new shows, we provide an update on which ones seem to be fairing well and which may be headed into a permanent hiatus.

The nominations for the American Music Awards were announced, though instead of pulling names from Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, the show relied on the Ultimate Chart published by BigChampagne.

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