Showbiz Sandbox 324: Can These 100 People Fix The Academy’s Diversity Problem?

After the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences failed to recognize the work of minority actors and filmmakers for the second year in a row, the organization promised to double the number of minorities within the next four years. The Los Angeles Times has taken matters into their own hands by suggesting 100 industry professionals that could make the Academy more diverse. Tre’vell Anderson, the staff writer who oversaw the project, joins us to explain how the list was compiled and what the response has been.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Disney has scheduled four weeks of reshoots for the Star Wars spin-off “Rogue One”. There is some speculation that Disney felt the film was too dark, however it could just be the standard reshoots multi-million dollar blockbusters often go through.

Sony made some revisions of their own last week to their senior executive ranks. Specifically the heads of both the motion picture and television groups both announced their departure from the studios. What’s noteworthy about the news is that both had worked at the studio for 25 years.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including when the Broadway hit “Hamilton” might lose its leading man, Nintendo revamps Pokemon in China and Amazon expands its content offerings in Japan.

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

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 297: Television Networks Brace For Media Measurement Mayhem

In the digital age the viewership of television content has been difficult to track across multiple platforms and devices. The announcement of a game-changing merger between web analytics firm Comscore and the TV and box office data outfit Rentrak suggests a much needed solution for cross-media ratings may soon be available.

The combination of Comscore and Rentrak would finally create a company with the deep pockets and technical expertise to legitimately take on Nielsen, the uncontested reigning king of television ratings for the last several decades. The industry welcomes such competition at a time when advertisers are clamoring for accurate audience measurement across all screens, including mobile devices.

Thanks to the increase in delayed viewing, television ratings have become near impossible to report in a timely manner. Overnight ratings have long been the standard for touting a television program’s success (or failure), but now such numbers can represent less than half a show’s total audience once DVR data is counted. This has made keeping track of who watched what when and on which devices extremely confusing.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the plans to the former hit series “MacGyver” a makeover, “Ghostbusters” gets animated and some of the unnecessary recipients among this year’s MacArthur Genius Awards.

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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 288: This Summer’s Box Office Is Turning Into A Blockbuster

A string of big budget Hollywood sequels and prequels like “Jurassic World”, “Avengers” and “Minions” have driven the 2015 summer box office nearly 15% higher than last year. And not just in the United States. Countries all over the world are reporting strong movie attendance, especially in China where homegrown productions have been the top grossing releases.

It doesn’t hurt that North American moviegoers are currently paying the highest ticket prices on record. Just ask IMAX which just reported the highest quarterly earnings in the company’s history.

It isn’t all good news for Hollywood studios however. The European Union is charging the six major distributors with antitrust violations over what regulators allege are illegal licensing contracts with cable operators. Should the EU prove their case, it could cause havoc by eradicating longstanding entertainment industry business models.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Emmy Award nominations, the approval of AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, why Neil Young is yanking his music from streaming services.

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Showbiz Sandbox 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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Showbiz Sandbox 282: Broadway’s Not So Big Night at the Tony Awards

A musical about family, sexuality and suicide along with a play about an adolescent with Aspberger’s syndrome won the top prizes at this year’s Tony Awards over the weekend. Based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir, “Fun Home” was awarded Best Musical and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” earned Best New Play. On paper, both could have been marginal longshots to win Tonys, which can at times go to more commercial productions.

We go over the list of this year’s Tony Award winners and choose a few highlights from a ceremony in which they were quite sparse. It was great to see Kelli O’Hara win a Tony for Best Actress In A Musical after she had been overlooked the last five times she was nominated. Yet, in a year which saw Broadway break box office records, the telecast flirted with all-time low ratings.

Meanwhile, as we record this episode Apple appears set to announce their streaming music service which some big record label executives see as a tipping point that could save the industry. That seems like a tall order given how late the company is getting to market, but it’s never a good idea to underestimate Apple.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how Netflix is heading to Spain, Senator Chris Dodd is staying on as head of the MPAA and Showtime is going over the top with its new streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

When theater owners and film distributors from around the world convened last week for CinemaCon in Las Vegas they were presented with a slate of upcoming blockbusters and cutting edge innovations which forecast an optimistic future for the industry. After ending last year with the most depressed box office returns in recent memory, 2015 is shaping up to break all records with at least four films potentially grossing more than a billion dollars.

Adding to the optimistic outlook are emerging technologies that enhance the experience of going to the cinema. Upgrades such as immersive sound, laser projection and high dynamic range may help lure certain demographics back to theaters. Teenagers and young adults, for instance, have seen declining attendance since 2007 as the number of on-demand entertainment options began expanding.

Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast called off its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable after government agencies informed the company they would actively work to block the merger. Regulators believed the deal, which many feared but felt would ultimately be approved, might allow Comcast to dominate not just cable television, but more importantly high speed Internet access.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the end of “Sabado Gigante”, how WikiLeaks got involved in the Sony cyberattack and Netflix just keeps growing.

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Showbiz Sandbox 274: Cord-Cutting Has Never Been Easier, or More Expensive

Cord-cutting has been a growing fear of the television industry for many years. The terrifying possibility that consumers will give up their expensive cable bundles in lieu of online streaming is quickly becoming a reality as numerous services have sprung up to provide over-the-top options. Unfortunately none of these services offers access to all the major networks forcing viewers to spend just as much, or even more, to see all their favorite programs.

When you start adding up the cost of subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu along with newcomers such as Dish Networks Sling TV and HBO Now, cutting the cord may not be the cost savings everyone has been hoping for.

Meanwhile, the music industry has been undergoing its own struggles as existing revenue models have been upended by digital distribution. Last year marked the first time that streaming music earned more than the sale of music on compact discs. This has led to a rallying cry from industry trade groups for artists to be fairly compensated regardless of the platform on which their music is accessed.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how female moviegoers are driving this year’s box office, why John Williams won’t be scoring Steven Spielberg’s next movie and the new math formula determining whether Madonna’s recent release is the top selling album of the week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

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