Showbiz Sandbox 287: The Unofficial Line On This Year’s Comic-Con

July 13, 2015

Pop-culture fans from around the world made their annual pilgrimage to San Diego over the weekend for this year’s Comic-Con.  More than 130,000 attendees turned up to a show where the largest auditorium has a capacity of 6,000. Alex Billington, editor of FirstShowing, explains how some fans had to wait in line for days (literally) to get into popular panel discussions such as the one for “Star Wars: Episode VII”.

Billington waited out the neverending lines so he could fill us in on all the events, panels, trailers and collectibles designed to build hype for upcoming films and television shows like “Hateful Eight”, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Deadpool”. In fact, so many movie studios and television networks showed up at Comic-Con, and with so much content, one has to wonder if their marketing messages weren’t ultimately lost in all the noise.

Meanwhile, the Minions spinoff from the “Despicable Me” franchise opened to record box office in North America giving Universal Pictures yet another big hit this year. Surely the studio will want the animated film to stick around cinemas for as long as possible, whereas Paramount Pictures has teamed up with two theater chains in an experiment to shorten the release window on certain films.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a request from publishing groups for an antitrust investigation targeting Amazon, “South Park” continues to redefine television thanks to a new deal with Hulu and the Rolling Stones continue their reign as the concert industry’s top earner.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 277: CinemaCon Predicts A Bright Future For Moviegoing

April 27, 2015

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.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 250: TV Ratings Have Become Messy, Misleading and Downright Maddening

September 22, 2014

Picking the winners and losers out of this year’s new television shows has never been more difficult. Just ask Marc Berman, editor-in-chief of TV Media Insights, joins us to explain how DVR’s and on-demand viewing have made overnight TV ratings very problematic. Berman says that these days the number of viewers watching a show when it airs is less important than its total audience during the week that follows.

Those looking for entertainment on a screen larger than the average television can head to movie theaters where they can watch the recently released “Maze Runner” in the new Barco Escape format. The experimental offering wraps three screens around the audience to provide a 270 degree viewing experience.

At the other end of the spectrum there are screens of a less significant size, like those found on the ever increasing number of e-readers. Amazon continues to improve its Kindle line and new the latest gadgets from Apple have excited publishing industry observers. We’ll explain why.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s $2 billion loss, Stevie Wonder heads out on tour and the twentieth anniversary of the sitcom “Friends”.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 234: Scandal and Politics Invade Hollywood (Again)

May 5, 2014

Two real-life controversies are presently complicating life in Hollywood where studios prefer to make lots of money and ignore complicated social issues or the sometimes tawdry private lives of their executives and talent. The first involves accusations of forcible rape by movie director Bryan Singer. The second involves boycotting a historic Tinseltown hotel over its owners politics.

In less contentious news it appears our prediction about the future of Craig Ferguson as host of the “Late Late Show” was correct, and he will indeed be departing by the end of this year. The host says the decision was entirely his own, despite what it might look like with David Letterman retiring from his show’s lead in, “Late Night”.

Tony nominations were announced last week to honor some of this year’s best and brightest Broadway productions and performers. We give you a rundown of all the front runners as well as a look at a few that didn’t make the cut.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the “Star Wars Episode VII” casting announcement, AT&T’s acquisition offer of DirecTV and Ben Affleck’s blackjack trouble.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 232: Coachella Goes Over The Top, Figuratively and Literally

April 14, 2014

In its 15 year history the Coachella has grown from a two day event with a couple dozen bands to one of the world’s most important music festivals with so many VIP luxury amenities that some have argued the high-priced perks have begun overshadowing the actual music. At the same time, Coachella organizers have made it easier than ever for stay-at-home-fans to catch their favorite artists by streaming the whole first weekend live on YouTube.

Speaking of VIP entertainment experiences, there is a brewing battle over premium large format screens at multiplexes all over the world. You might know these types of auditoriums as IMAX, though not for long if your local cinema chain has anything to say about it.

Since it’s tax time here in the United States we uncover a few stories about how movie, television and theatre productions are not only skipping out on their taxes, but in fact getting huge subsidies courtesy of the tax man in most states.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Stephen Colbert’s move to replace David Letterman, the motion picture Academy’s new high profile curator and James Cameron’s complaints about the latest blockbuster movies.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 213: Has Thor Brought The Hammer Down On 3D Movies?

November 11, 2013

There is no disputing the financial success of “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel in the franchise based on the Marvel Comics superhero. What’s less clear is what the film’s box office grosses say about the adoption of 3D. During opening weekend 700 2D screens in North America accounted for 60% of tickets sales, as opposed to the 40% earned by 3,100 3D screens. Is this yet another sign audiences have given up on 3D movies?

Netflix doesn’t care how you see a superhero movie, so long as you’re watching it through their service. Last week the on-demand video powerhouse cut a deal with Disney to produce four new original series based on Marvel superheroes, all of which will lead up to a crossover miniseries.

As if competing with Netflix wasn’t bad enough, television broadcasters are still figuring out how to deal with DVRs and the growing number of audiences who time shift their content. One major broadcast network is pushing for advertisers to pay for increased viewership on DVRs for up to seven days after a show originally airs.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Blockbuster Video, the official release date for “Star Wars: Episode VII” and Richard Branson brings reality television into space.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 212: Should There Be An Oscar For Casting Directors?

November 4, 2013

Last week Woody Allen wrote an “open letter” to the film industry pointing out that casting is the only single card credit at the beginning of a movie which is not honored by the Academy Awards. Like many before him, the filmmaker argued casting directors are crucial to any good movie, especially his. Should the Oscars consider adding a category for casting directors to recognize them alongside editors, cinematographers and other craftspeople?

Meanwhile, a film that hasn’t started the casting process in earnest is “Star Wars: Episode VII”. The movie doesn’t even have a script yet, which is why its filmmakers have been trying to convince Disney to push its release date back a year to 2016.

In the television world there was bad news for Time Warner Cable last week. Their dispute with CBS which led to a month-long blackout of the network cost the company over 300,000 subscribers. This likely means other cable providers will be afraid to pick fights with broadcasters over the rising cost of programming. Digital rights, however, are an entirely different battle.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why “slow TV” is such a hit in Norway, the rising cost of the “Hunger Games” franchise and the Jonas Brothers officially call it quits.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 211: Why Movie Studios Are Playing Musical Chairs With Release Dates

October 28, 2013

There was a time if a Hollywood studio pushed back the release date for one of its eagerly anticipated titles it signaled the movie might be in trouble. If there was ever a sign that such stigmas no longer apply when delaying a release date, one need look no further than this year. An overly crowded and competitive awards season has meant the release dates for a number of high-end hopefuls have been wisely pushed into 2014, including “Monuments Men”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”.

Distributors in China, Japan and South Korea may soon have to start worrying about release dates too. Box office is surging to record levels in Asia, thanks not to Hollywood blockbusters, but rather homegrown productions.

If it were up to consumer electronics manufacturers, we’d all be watching movies at home on our new 4K Ultra HD televisions. Broadcasters, burned by the original conversion to HD and a string of 3D experiments, want to know who is going to foot the bill this time around.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new, yet familiar, writers taking on the “Star Wars” sequels, YouTube gets into the music streaming business and Netflix wants to make original movies.

Read more

Play

Showbiz Sandbox 180: Binge-Viewing Is Transforming The Way We Watch Television

February 4, 2013

With new streaming media services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime popping up all the time, we now have the ability to watch entire seasons of episodic television series all at once.  Now Netflix is taking binge-viewing one step further by releasing all 13-episodes of their original drama series “House of Cards” at once.  Dawn Chmielewski of the Los Angeles Times explains how the trend is altering narrative structures, existing revenue models and the entire television landscape.

Speaking of television, the Super Bowl proved once again to be a huge ratings bonanza with more than 108 million viewers tuning in to the football championship game.  Unfortunately a power outage delayed the airing of a post-game television show which had hoped to get a boost from carryover viewers.

Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” continues to top the worldwide box office, leading a pack of Oscar contenders that continues to attract big audiences well into the new year.

Of course we also cover the top entertainment headlines from the past week including news about a film version of the hit series “Entourage”, plans for subscription channels on YouTube and Ticketmaster (sort of) ditches its horrible security system.

Read more

Play