Showbiz Sandbox 252: Crouching Netflix, Hidden IMAX and the Myth of Broken Release Windows

The Weinstein Co. stunned the entertainment industry last week by announcing they would distribute the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX. As Brooks Barnes of the New York Times explains, the plan only has one problem; movie theaters refuse to show any film that opens day-and-date on home video or video-on-demand. This begs the question, if a movie never opens theatrically, was it’s release window really broken?

Netflix continued to make additional headlines later in the week by signing a deal with actor Adam Sandler to make four original movies for the streaming service. We discuss whether Netflix is changing the Hollywood paradigm or simply becoming one more buyer of premium content.

While Netflix is leaning into the future, director Christopher Nolan is taking a more old fashioned approach by releasing his upcoming movie on actual film. Select theaters showing “Interstellar” on analogue celluloid will get the film two days early. But will theater owners, who recently converted to digital cinema, still know how to thread a 35mm projector?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the death of Saturday morning cartoons, why U2 released their latest album on vinyl and how Facebook is helping “Twilight” live on through a series of short films.

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Showbiz Sandbox 202: Holy Overreaction, Batman!

You would have thought the world was coming to an end last week when Warner Bros. announced the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman in the upcoming blockbuster which will pair the Dark Knight with Superman. Fans of the Caped Crusader weren’t the only ones to weigh in on the casting choice. Just about everyone on earth seemed to have an opinion (most of them negative) on whether Affleck should put on the Batsuit.

No matter who plays Batman, you can be sure the character will resurface in more films. After all, seven of the top ten grossing movies of the summer were sequels or remakes, helping the 2013 domestic box office stay on track with last year.

Much the moviegoers have gotten used to reboots and sequels, television audiences have grown accustom to having their cable providers blackout networks over licensing disputes just as Time Warner Cable is doing presently with CBS and its affiliated networks. Industry critics and politicians have suggested a la carte cable may help stem such actions, though we’ll explain why it may prove to be a horrible idea.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the launch of iTunes Radio, the return of “Duck Dynasty” and the death of drive in movie theaters.

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Showbiz Sandbox 199: Comic-Con and Hollywood Is A Match Made In Nerdvana

Hollywood movie studios are no stranger to Comic-Con, the world largest pop-culture convention attracting 140,000 fans to San Diego each summer. For years they have showed up with new titles hoping to drum up pre-release buzz, though at times such calculated marketing moves have backfired in spectacular fashion. Even so, Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher says audiences always welcome Hollywood back to the Con with open arms.

Boucher gives us an inside look at this year’s event, filling us in on which movies, television shows and events were huge hits (or misses) with fans. Did the announcement of a film pairing of Superman and Batman go over well with the crowd? Was everyone surprised to see a trailer for the “Veronica Mars” movie.

Last week also saw the Television Academy announce their nominations for this year’s Emmy Awards. The big news was the Netflix series “House of Cards” which earned 14 nominations and marked the first time a show will vie for an Emmy without having aired on broadcast or cable networks.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a public spat over Spotify streaming royalty rates, Keith Olbermann’s return to ESPN and a summer of big box office flops.

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Showbiz Sandbox 195: Hollywood Exploits 9/11 Imagery For Its Implosive Blockbusters

As “Man of Steel” sets the worldwide box office aflame, the latest Superman reboot also serves as yet another example of a Hollywood blockbuster exploiting the imagery of 9/11 for apocalyptic purposes. Kyle Buchanan, the Movies Editor at New York Magazine, would like to see filmmakers stop relying on meaningless urban destruction.  He joins us to discuss his recent article calling for an end to the “orgy of gratuitous building-battering” in big budget movies.

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are two filmmakers quite familiar with blockbuster movies.  Now, the directors who helped launch the modern day tentpole release are predicting an “implosion” for Hollywood, along with a handful of other pessimistic prognostications.  We’ll tell you what they had to say in a recent panel discussion.

Last week also saw Apple finally get into the music streaming business with the announcement of iTunes Radio.  Only time will tell whether Apple will be able to compete with Pandora, Spotify and all of the other existing players in the space, though we’re not overly impressed.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a legal victory for Hollywood interns, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to “The Terminator” and The Muppets head to Broadway.

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Showbiz Sandbox 182: Last Year’s Movies Provide A Wealth of Riches

For the past four years blogger Aaron Rich has been reviewing the movies he sees on his blog All The Movies I Watch, with a strong emphasis on independent and international titles. Last year he saw more than 500 films and says it was a good year for movies, as long as you ignored what Hollywood had to offer. Rich joins us to discuss some of his best (and worst) movies of 2012, many of which may be unfamiliar to you.

As we roll towards another Oscars ceremony, it looks as if Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is poised to take home the year’s biggest prize; Best Picture. This past weekend it topped the Writers Guild Awards, along with “Zero Dark Thirty”. We have a few last minute predictions for who might be picking up this year’s Academy Awards.

At some point all of this year’s movies will wind up on video services such as Netflix. Yet we’ll never know how popular they are on Netflix because the company won’t divulge viewership numbers. This is making it very difficult to determine whether its own original programming, such as “House of Cards”, is a success.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how movie ticket prices went up in 2012, how Universal Music Publishing Group hopes to capitalize cover versions of its songs on YouTube, and why rock legend Chubby Checker is suing a software developer for stealing his name.

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Showbiz Sandbox 177: The Bloomin’ Onion Effect: Why Audiences Are Happy Movies Have Gotten Longer

In an age where audiences have grown used to the brevity of YouTube clips and 140 character updates, Hollywood is instead serving up super sized movies. Six of the top ten movies from 2012 were over two hours, including comic book movies like “The Avengers”. Even comedies such as “This Is 40” crossed the 120 minute mark and don’t even get us started on “The Hobbit”.

Rebecca Keegan of the Los Angeles Times explains the increase in movie running times has a lot to do with the creative control marquee directors have over their films as well as digital tools that allow them to shoot more footage. Surprisingly, Keegan found that most moviegoers appreciate longer running times since it makes them feel they are getting a more value for the price of admission.

Also from the Los Angeles Times is Glenn Whipp, who joins us to discuss some of the surprise Academy Award nominations announced last week and whether the Golden Globes might affect who wins Oscars this year.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a resolution in Superman’s court case, the return of daytime soap operas and whether the film adaption of “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be rated NC-17.

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Showbiz Sandbox 168: Why TV Audiences Abandoned Broadcast Networks

The start of the new television season has been a huge disappointment for broadcast networks with ratings down as much as 28% on Fox. Only NBC has seen an increase in viewership in key demos and after years of coming in fourth among networks, now finds itself bouncing back. Why have audiences abandoned broadcast television? Here’s a hint; it has to do with zombies.

Industry analysts fault lackluster new series and strong programming alternatives on cable for broadcast networks latest woes. We provide a rundown of which new shows might stick around for a while, those that might be put on hiatus and which have already gotten the ax.

If you paid to download any of this season’s new TV shows you may be interested to know that you are only licensing the right to view them and don’t actually own them outright. Two upcoming court cases may help resolve the issue, if they don’t wind up muddying the waters further.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new agreement between Dish and AMC, Beyonce’s new Super Bowl gig, and the end of Newsweek as a print magazine.

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Showbiz Sandbox 167: The Digital Age Crushes Variety

Last week the venerable trade paper Variety, which has been covering the entertainment industry for more than 100 years, was sold to Penske Media Corporation for $25 million. Dana Harris, the editor-in-chief of Indiewire, spent 11 years at Variety and she joins us to discuss the past, present and future of a news outlet that has struggled to adapt in an online world.

Of course, the music world is quite familiar with how digital technology can disrupt existing markets. Digital radio pioneer Pandora is pushing legislation regarding the royalties they pay to artists. This past week they made public some the big checks they’ve been writing to individual musicians.

The royalties for a bunch of super heroes are also being disputed. Stan Lee Media is suing Marvel to get a cut of all that “Avengers” money and the daughter of Superman creator Jerry Seigel is duking it out with Warner Bros. over copyright claims.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a break for Louis CK, CNN gets into the documentary film business, and how New Zealand is literally minting money for “The Hobbit”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 101: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner To Corner Office

Starting out on the streets of Brooklyn, New York as a drug dealer in the late 1980s, hip-hop star Jay-Z has transformed himself into a recognizable brand encompassing music, clothing, restaurants, nightclubs and an NBA basketball team. Our guest this week is Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg who tells the improbable story of how Jay-Z rose to the top of the business world in his new book, “Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went from Street Corner to Corner Office“.

Another brand that has proven their business acumen is home video subscription service Netflix. The company, which reported record first quarter numbers this past week, soon will have a number of competitors, including the likes of YouTube, DirecTV and Comcast.

Maybe Vin Diesel can turn himself into a mega-brand, proving he can still open a film on a global scale with “Fast Five”, the fifth installment in the “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. The film earned mega-bucks this past weekend, despite being up against the summer blockbuster “Thor” in international territories.

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Showbiz Sandbox 97: What The Failure Of “Mars Needs Moms” Means For Hollywood

When Disney’s animated film “Mars Needs Moms” flopped at the box office, film industry insiders struggled to pinpoint a possible cause.  Was it the motion-capture animation style?  The lackluster storyline?  Are multiplexes saturated with too animated family films?  Have higher 3D ticket prices caused moviegoers to become more picky?  We are joined by New York Times media reporter Brooks Barnes who faults a long list of culprits for the movies failure.

Meanwhile, music industry big shots trekked to Austin, Texas last week hoping to find undiscovered artists at the South by Southwest music conference.  However, 13-year-old Rebbecca Black didn’t have to attend SxSW to attract attention.  She became the world’s latest pop-star in under a week when her much maligned song and music video turned into a viral Internet sensation.

Streaming video continues to change the television landscape.  Video streaming service Netflix made the jump into original programming by picking up a television series.  Such a move was aimed at keeping Netflix ahead of an endless assortment of competitors entering the market.

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