Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

Two of the world’s most prominent film festivals are held each September in Telluride and Toronto and, without fail, you’ll find Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, dashing off to both of them. Thompson gives us a feel for what both festivals were like this year, which films created the most awards buzz and which she thinks audiences should be looking forward to.

Thompson also joins us to discuss this year’s Emmy winners. The premium cable network HBO proved it is still at the top of its game, fending off the stiff competition of hot new shows being produced by upstart streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network wept away the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Limited Series categories, winning 14 awards in all.

Meanwhile, in case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must take into account the possibility of fair use before sending a takedown notice. Rather than force possible infringers to mount what is known as an affirmative defense, the court is placing the burden on copyright holders to consider whether a work should be considered fair use.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new over-the-top and mobile streaming services being offered by the BBC and Epix, one of the creators of Batman will finally get the credit he has long deserved (though maybe not the money) and Denzel Washington will produce ten August Wilson plays for HBO.

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Showbiz Sandbox 171: Cost Of Sports Could Be Cable’s Unbundling

The rights to broadcast Major League Baseball games through 2021 were recently scooped up by ESPN for a cool $5.6 billion. That’s nothing compared to the $15.2 billion the network will be paying the NFL for “Monday Night Football” over the next eight years. Now News Corp. has coughed up billions for a stake in the New York Yankees network and are on the verge of paying a rumored $6 billion for the rights to air Los Angeles Dodger baseball games for 25-years. Some cable operators are now saying the skyrocketing costs of sports programming is out of control and unrealistic.

Since we’re talking about billions of dollars, we may as well mention Sony Pictures. Thanks to films such as “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Skyfall” the studio has taken in more than $4 billion worldwide this year at the box office. Lionsgate isn’t doing too bad either, earning $1 billion with releases such as “Hunger Games” and “Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”.

In fact, the North American box office is on pace to set a new record this year, much like the grosses recorded over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The $290 million was a new high for the four day period.

Of course, we also cover all the big entertainment headlines from the past two weeks including the ongoing sexual abuse scandal rocking Sesame Street, the death of actor Larry Hagman and NBC’s big win during the November sweeps.

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Showbiz Sandbox 149: Cannes Falls For “Amour”

This year’s Cannes Film Festival concluded with “Amour”, a film by Austrian director Michael Haneke, winning the Palme d’Or. The movie about an elderly couple in Paris features two renown French actors and was a hit with festival audiences. Anne Thompson from Indiewire’s Thompson on Hollywood blog says the jury rewarded many of the noteworthy films at this year’s festival, though entries with stars like Brad Pitt and Nicole Kidman were rather disappointing.

Speaking of winners, last week Phillip Phillips was crowned the winner of this season’s “American Idol”. The big loser however may be the singing competition show itself, since it is no longer the most watched television show in the nation, a title it held for a historic seven years. That honor is now held by Sunday Night Football.

Apple rather convincingly shredded the antitrust suit tbe Justice Department filed against them and top publishers over the price fixing of e-books. Apple’s response points out a number of innacuracies in the suit and manages to bolster their own case, while notably not helping the publishers with their defense.

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Showbiz Sandbox 137: A Revealing Look At Who Votes For The Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has never published a complete list of the 5,765 members who cast ballots for their annual Oscars. Despite the secrecy surrounding the Academy’s membership, Nicole Sperling worked for months with her colleagues at the Los Angeles Times to confirm 5,100 members. Sperling explains the method behind the Times’ research and some of the details they uncovered. Did you know only 2% of members are under the age of 40? Neither did we.

While the Academy Awards may celebrate some of the big critical and financial successes of the past year, Aaron Rich, the gentleman blogger behind All The Movies I Watch joins us to discuss some of his top movies of 2011, many of which were overlooked by Oscar voters.

If you watch the Oscars telecast this weekend you’ll probably be doing so through a cable or satellite signal. Aero, a new company backed by the likes of Barry Diller, hopes to change that by providing those wishing to cut their cable cord with a special antenna capable of receiving broadcast television. That is if the inevitable law suits don’t shut them down first.

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Showbiz Sandbox 122: The Real Story Behind Steve Jobs And Pixar

Millions mourned the loss of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs this past week when the innovator behind the Macintosh computer,  the iPod and others died at the age of 56. Though the endless eulogies of Jobs always mention Jobs Pixar tenure, they rarely provided any real detail. Truth is Jobs lost money with Pixar for ten years trying to turn the company into a successful computer hardware business. We’ll dive into the story of how Jobs came to own Pixar and how the company stumbled upon success in computer animation.

Of course, there has never been a Pixar film that didn’t make money. However, we often blithely dismiss one movie as being a box office loser and another as a hit even though they might seem similar in budgets and box office. When we consider a film a hit or a flop, we’re making numerous assumptions on various factors. It’s always a judgment call, but to try and explain what sort of judgments we’re making, we’ve decided to look at several different movies and explain why we consider them a hit or miss.

It’s not as hard to tell when a new television series is a flop, especially after the network cancels it. A number of new shows (“Playboy Club”) got axed this past week, while others (“New Girl”) were picked up for an entire season. One series which nearly didn’t make the cut was “The Simpsons”. After its 23rd season the animated show was nearly canceled over a contract dispute with the cast providing voices for its lovable characters.

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Showbiz Sandbox 116: Will Hollywood Miss Steve Jobs?

Last week’s news that Steve Jobs was stepping down as the CEO of Apple caused headline writers all over the world to work overtime. Sure Jobs became a household name by helping revolutionize personal computing, but he also helped shape the modern entertainment industry with products such as iTunes, the iPod and the iPad. And we shouldn’t forget his role in founding a little animation company called Pixar. We discuss what Jobs departure from Apple means to Hollywood and why some entertainment execs may be secretly relieved to see him exit the stage.

On the other hand, news that filmmaker Ridley Scott was working on a sequel to his sci-fi masterpiece “Blade Runner” didn’t seem to please anyone. Some showbiz pundits went so far as to call the idea “catastrophically bad”. We’ll explain why.

Over in the world of television, one of the husbands on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” committed suicide causing Bravo to re-edit episodes for the upcoming season. Will the death of Russell Armstrong cause networks to rethink how they handle reality television?

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