Showbiz Sandbox 337: Streaming Comes to the Rescue of the Music Industry (Sort Of)

September 26, 2016

After more than a decade in decline, the sale of recorded music in the United States is set to grow for the second straight year thanks to increased revenue earned from music streaming services such as Spotify. Even so, the music industry is taking in half of what it earned at its peak late 1990s because streaming revenue hasn’t made up for the falloff in actual sales.

Meanwhile, the Dalian Wanda Group continues its invasion of Hollywood by cutting a deal with Sony Pictures to market movies in China. Wanda can practically guarantee the success of a new release given that it controls the largest movie theater chain in China ensuring a film will be scheduled heavily when it opens.

There is no sure bet at Viacom however as the media giant’s leadership remains in turmoil. It’s interim CEO is stepping down sooner than expected and the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures is also exiting. Then last week the company announced it would take a $115 million loss on a movie that hasn’t even been released yet.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a new law requiring websites like IMDb remove an actor’s age upon request, the BBC gets into a bake off battle and why Netflix is getting more original every day.

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Showbiz Sandbox 331: Apparently Warner Bros. Needs to Start Making Donuts

August 16, 2016

In a scathing open letter published last week, an alleged ex-Warner Bros. employee took the studio and its chairman Kevin Tsujihara to task for a number of recent missteps. The author mocks studio brass for doubling down on the talent delivering critical duds such as “Batman v Superman” and their inability to make a hit movie, despite somehow managing to keep their jobs.

Though the veracity of the letter is questionable, it caused ripples in Hollywood not because it revealed a trove of inside secrets, but more due to the fact that it publicly stated what so many have been whispering about Warner Bros. lately; a lack of leadership and a confused executive team have led to a year of mixed results.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Rio Olympics, along with three or four billion viewers around the world. Despite audience figures that are down from the London games in numerous territories, the Summer Olympics is arguably still a ratings juggernaut hard to compete against, giving networks broadcasting the event a serious advantage.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how a Netflix documentary helped overturn a murder conviction, why Thomas Gibson got fired from “Criminal Minds” and Comedy Central cancels “The Nightly Show”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

November 3, 2015

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

March 2, 2015

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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Showbiz Sandbox 269: When Journalists Make Headlines Instead of Report Them

February 17, 2015

Last week a number of respected journalists who have won praise after decades of reporting the news actually wound up in the headlines themselves. First Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC Nightly News was suspended for six month by the network when allegations arose that he exaggerated his experiences while reporting on the Iraq War. Then, esteemed New York Times media columnist David Carr suddenly died after collapsing in the newsroom leading to an outpouring of condolences.

Ironically, overshadowing both of these events was an announcement from Jon Stewart, a self-professed “fake journalist” that he would be leaving “The Daily Show” after 17 years as it’s host. Such news must have executives at Comedy Central reeling, since it comes on the heels of Stephen Colbert’s departure from the network.

On the other hand, Spider-Man isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to stay at Sony, however will be loaned to Disney for appearances in Marvel’s multi-character movies. The studio also plans to once again reboot the Spider-Man franchise by recasting the role.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the huge opening weekend for “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Netflix heads to Cuba and the latest awards season winners.

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Showbiz Sandbox 265: This Year’s Oscar Nominations Aren’t Only Racist, They’re Anti-Lego

January 20, 2015

While debating Oscar nomination snubs has become an annual tradition, the criticism over this year’s list of nominees had to do with racial bias and a lack of diversity. Specifically, a film about civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. was nominated for Best Picture, but its female director and lead actor, both black, were surprisingly overlooked.

Yet few seemed to notice is that “Selma”, the film in question, is only the twelfth film directed by a woman to receive a Best Picture nomination in the 86 year history of the Academy Awards. On only four occasions has the filmmaker also been nominated for Best Director. And six of these movies were nominated during the last 10 years, pointing towards a positive trend for female helmers.

Also under represented in the Best Picture category at this year’s Oscars are hit movies. Sure, all of the nominees were successful, but only “American Sniper” earned big bucks at the box office. If only Legos were eligible to vote… maybe they’re film would have been nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Barbara Streisand’s latest platinum album, Amazon’s move into theatrical film distribution and why James Cameron is delaying the “Avatar” sequels to 201.

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Showbiz Sandbox 264: Globes Have Golden Opportunity To Expand Awards Season

January 12, 2015

Not even two weeks into 2015 and the annual slog known as awards season has commenced in earnest. This year’s festivities were kicked off by the Golden Globe Awards over the weekend which pull double duty by honoring the best of both movies and television. We wonder if it might make more sense to hold two different ceremonies throughout the year; one for movies and one for television.

The BAFTA nominations were also announced last year, though there was very little British about them, as has traditionally been the case. Guild nominations have also started pouring in as well, though what everyone wants to know is how all of this will affect the upcoming Oscar race.

Meanwhile, some established artists in the movie and music industries have started to offer their latest work directly to fans. By some accounts these experiments have proven incredibly successful and profitable, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to tell since sales figures for such efforts are often hard to come by.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including John Travolta’s return to television, why actress Charlize Theron requested a pay raise on her next film and an update on the Sony cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 263: A Review of the Entertainment Industry’s Annus Horribilis

January 6, 2015

There’s no getting around the fact that 2014 was a financially dismal year for the entertainment business. Movie box office, home video revenue and music sales were all down significantly in most territories. The only bright spot might be television ad sales which grew slightly, albeit at lower level than originally forecast.

Statistically speaking the numbers don’t look good. Movie attendance plummeted to the lowest levels since 1995. Home video returns decreased nearly 2%, despite a rise in digital downloads. Music sales continued their global decline as more consumers turn to streaming services.

Industry-watchers are predicting that, except for box office, 2015 could produce the same mixed results for entertainment companies as digital technologies keep disrupting longstanding business models.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2014, how One Direction became the year’s top concert draw and an update on the Sony Pictures cyber attack.

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Showbiz Sandbox 262: Will “The Interview” Become A Rallying Cry For Freedom?

December 23, 2014

When the U.S. government identified North Korea as the culprit behind a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the incident quickly became a matter of international security. As the studio halted the release of an upcoming political satire it seemed as if they had acquiesced to the hacker’s demands in what many saw as a direct attack on free speech. Now that Sony has reversed course and will distribute the film, will “The Interview” become a patriotic rallying cry for freedom?

Maybe one day “The Interview” will be selected by the Library of Congress for the National Film Registry. This year’s entries include “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Big Lebowski” and “Rosemary’s Baby” along with many other influential movies.

Meanwhile, an upstart performance rights organization continues to threaten YouTube over more than 20,000 songs for which it says the streaming media giant doesn’t have a license. The details of the dispute get mired down in complicated copyright law, but it just goes to underscore how important streaming revenue is becoming to entertainment companies.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Madonna’s new album gets leaked online, the hit film “School of Rock” is heading to Broadway and why HBO is giving up on overnight ratings.

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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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