Showbiz Sandbox 339: The Slow Death of a Sundance Hit

October 10, 2016

With its racially charged themes striking a timely chord, “The Birth of a Nation” garnered acclaim and a $17.5 million distribution deal at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. However after it became known that its director and star was once accused (though acquitted) of rape, a question was raised over whether art can be separated from its creator. Many will argue that the answer lies in the movie’s poor critical reception and tepid box office.

What was touted as a contender for multiple Oscar nominations this year, “The Birth of a Nation” may ultimately break even in theatres before going on to earn most of its money in ancillary markets. If it were up to Reed Hastings though, the film would have been released on VOD and in cinemas at the same time. The Netflix CEO claims theater owners are strangling the movie industry with their insistence on release windows.

Meanwhile, there are calls by some in Congress for the Justice Department to review the growing number of business acquisitions being made by Wanda, a Chinese conglomerate. Having purchased multiple movie theater chains and at least one Hollywood production company, some legislators believe the U.S. is allowing Chinese state-controlled companies to gain too much soft power

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why executives are disappearing from BBC’s Radio 1, how Disney cast a sequel to “Mary Poppins” without a script and what the future may hold for celebrity newscaster Billy Bush.

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Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

February 2, 2016

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 267: VOD Helps Heat Up Sundance

February 2, 2015

Distributors went on a buying spree at this year’s Sundance Film Festival not only due to the quality of the movies, but also because of new-found revenue from VOD services. We give you a rundown of the titles that were acquired, how much was spent on them and whether there is any hope they will ever make that money back for distributors.

Speaking of money, musician Sly Stone could be $5 million richer after winning a court ruling last week against his former manager who he claims withheld royalties.

Singer Sam Smith, on the other hand, won’t be trying to cheat Tom Petty out of royalties for his song, “Stay With Me”. The artist agreed the song was similar to one of Petty’s past hits and added the legendary rocker to the writing credits.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including yet another Super Bowl television ratings record, when we can expect the next “Game of Thrones” book from author George R.R. Martin, and “Empire” is becoming a much needed hit series for Fox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 266: Sundance Becomes A Little More International

January 28, 2015

Though the Sundance Film Festival has long been one of the more important festivals held each year, it was primarily known as a launching pad for American independent films and as such international attendance was minimal. That seems to have changed over the past few years as Sundance selections started receiving Oscar nominations. Now industry professionals from all over the world show up at the festival to find the next “Whiplash”, “Precious” or “Beasts of the Southern Wild”.

We didn’t have to travel from halfway around the world to attend this year’s Sundance, but we are in Park City and will fill you in on all the buzzworthy films, major acquisitions and festival news.

Meanwhile, the Producer’s Guild Awards muddied the waters in the current race for the Best Picture Academy Award. While everyone assumed “Boyhood” would walk off with the prize on its way to Oscar victory, “Birdman” swept in and unexpectedly stole it. Whether this is any indication as to how Oscar voters will cast their ballots is questionable.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is headed to court over his record contract, how James Patterson is promoting his new book and Mrs. Doubtfire is headed to Broadway.

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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 222: Grammys Spin Positive Message Into Big Ratings

January 28, 2014

Whether it was Hunter Hayes belting out an anti-bullying song or Queen Latifah performing a mass-marriage ceremony for 32 couples to the hip-hop beats of Macklemore & Lewis, this years Grammys’ ceremony was more upbeat than ever. David Wild, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, wrote the telecast that attracted a whopping 28.5 million viewers, as well as the Beatles tribute concert the very next night. He stops by to discuss what it was like helping put both shows together.

Awards were also handed out for movies this past week. The Directors Guild of America shook up the Oscar race by giving its top prize to Alfonso Cuaron for “Gravity” and the Sundance Film Festival came to an end by handing out more than two dozen awards to indie movies.

Meanwhile, a number of companies are locked in a heated battle to provide an online alternative to cable and satellite television. The biggest hurdle for the likes of Amazon, Sony and Verizon in helping audiences cut the cord may turn out to be the erosion of net neutrality.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including shorter movie trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s latest screenplay gets leaked and Bill Cosby returns to NBC with a new sit-com.

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Showbiz Sandbox 221: Sundance Returns To Its Indie Roots (Again)

January 20, 2014

Celebrities, filmmakers and industry executives are in the midst of their annual pilgrimage to Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. Thanks to digital technology it’s never been easier to make or distribute a low budget film. This has led to a glut of indie productions looking for audiences and no way to know which are worth watching.

This year’s Sundance began the day Oscar nominations were handed out and the festival’s founder was overlooked for his critically praised performance in “All Is Lost”. (Awkward). With nine films competing for Best Picture, and guild awards not being hounded out to consistent winners, it looks as if this will be one of the closest Oscar races in recent memory.

Meanwhile, an appeals court ruling may have finally killed Net Neutrality, much to the joy of Internet service providers everywhere. This means the cost of streaming online music and video may soon rise significantly.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a Broadway bound musical adaptation of Disney’s “Frozen”, the declining appeal (and ratings) of “American Idol” and the most popular show on daytime television.

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Showbiz Sandbox 179: How To Gamble And Win On Broadway

January 28, 2013

This year alone there are at least 15 new shows being mounted on Broadway including adaptations of movies such as “Diner” and “Big Fish”. At one point or another all were in search of financial backing, however well known productions with big name stars often don’t pay dividends. We review which upcoming stagings smart, experienced Broadway investors should be banking on.

A very successful Sundance Film Festival came to an end last week as distributors left Park City having acquired a dozen or more independent films. We discuss the reason behind the frenzied sales activity and why some films came with steep seven-figure price tags.

Since we’re on the subject of paying out or investing money, it looks as if the cable bill for Los Angelenos will be going up again thanks to the L.A. Dodgers deal with Time Warner Cable for a new sports channel. Does one market really need six sports networks. More importantly, why are the customers in a single market forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Warner Bros. new CEO, JJ Abrams signs on to direct the new “Star Wars” and Fox begs viewers to use their DVRs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 178: Sex Sells At Sundance

January 21, 2013

The Sundance Film Festival has a reputation of programming edgy, independent films that often reflect the spirit and sentiment of the country. The festival must think the nation is in a lascivious mood since many of the films at this year’s event are rather racy.

In fact, at least three films at this year’s festival focus on pornography, including “Lovelace” a biopic of the world’s first pornstar. Whether it’s suburban lesbian mothers turning into prostitutes or two best friends having affairs with each other’s sons, Sundance has been hot and steamy.

If the number of distribution deals at this year’s festival is any indication however, Sundance is surely on the right track.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including controversial action figures for “Django Unchained”, Hanks and Spielberg head to war again, and Robert Iger’s big salary raise.

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