Showbiz Sandbox 184: How Authors Rig The Bestseller Lists

When Soren Kaplan’s “Leapfrogging” was published last summer it immediately appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business books, a position that would be maintained for only a week. That was more than enough time for Kaplan to cement his status as a best-selling author which, in-turn, helps him land lucrative speaking and consulting gigs.

That is precisely why Kaplan hired a marketing firm to purchase copies of the book upon publication to assure it would appear on bestseller lists. During an interview with the Journal, Kaplan reveals how authors buying their way onto the bestseller list is a dirty little secret the publishing industry would prefer you not know about.

Dreamworks Animation is not being completely honest either. They took huge write-downs on their most recent release “Rise of the Guardians” and faulted the film’s weak performance as the reason for laying of 400 employees. However many question whether the company’s decision to move some of their production to China may have more to do with it.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the best yearly music sales since 1999, the end of Daily Variety and whether NBC is looking to part ways with Jay Leno (again).

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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 123: DVR Data Can Save TV Shows From Cancellation

It turns out your DVR can be helpful beyond just recording your favorite television shows. Examining which commercials you skip past might be able to help predict box office flops and monitoring which shows you watch can save a borderline series from being canceled. We’ll debate whether television networks and movie studios can benefit from the data being collected from your DVR.

Apple however may be trying to make your DVR obsolete. The long standing rumors that Apple might be working on a next generation television set have heated up once again. Would you welcome Apple into your living room?

Dozens of entries make up this year’s Best Foreign Language Oscar list, though all of them will ultimately be nominated. We’ll explain how the list ultimately gets whittled down to just five movies.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including why Hulu is no longer for sale, why Jonny Depp’s “Lone Ranger” is back in production and how Amazon plans to make publishers unnecessary.

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Showbiz Sandbox 108: China Becomes Hollywood’s New Best Frenemy

Hollywood movie studios have been raking in the yuan at the Chinese box office over the past year. This despite China missing the most recent World Trade Organization deadline to open its market to more foreign films. Forced to work through government sanctioned monopolies, studios have been aggressive about getting their movies in front of China’s billion plus citizens. Meanwhile, actors such as Christian Bale have headed east to star in China’s big blockbusters, such as Zhang Yimou’s Heroes of Nanking.

Maybe a film from China will be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in the near future. Of course, contenders will have to figure out the new Best Picture nomination process put forth by the Academy last week. In an effort to create an air of suspense, the number of nominees for the year’s big film prize will fluctuate between 5 and 10 entries, depending on how balloting shakes out. We’ll explain all the new rules.

It looks as if Spotify, the popular European music streaming service, may be launching in the United States as early as July. They’ll go up against well established offerings like Pandora, which went public last week.

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Showbiz Sandbox 83: The Social Network Tops Critics Year-End Picks

Even the latest “Chronicles of Narnia” film can’t steal the spotlight from “The Social Network”. David Fincher’s little Facebook movie is the toast of critics groups throughout the country with most selecting it as the year’s best film. “Blue Valentine” may be getting overlooked when it comes to top awards, but the MPAA decided to downgrade the film’s NC-17 rating to a more marketable R.

Spotify, Europe’s leading online music service, still hasn’t launched in the United States thanks to licensing disputes with the record labels. We’ll just have to be satisfied with watching music videos on YouTube where artists like Rhianna, Eminem and Justin Bieber rake in millions from advertising.

Disney and ABC aren’t relying on YouTube to make money online with their television shows. Instead, they struck a lucrative licensing deal with Netflix who will stream the shows to to paying subscribers.

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Showbiz Sandbox 31: Blind Sided By Adam Lambert’s Double Standard

While we all still may be sluggish from all the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, the North American box office sure wasn’t. It set a record for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as once again “The Blind Side” surprises everyone. The Sandra Bullock movie defied expectations to earn another $40 million over the five-day period, almost topping “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” as the winner this weekend. Proof positive that Sandra Bullock is a movie star.

So is George Clooney, whose “Up In The Air” opens on Friday. According to Claudia Eller of the Los Angeles Times the film is proving to be a marketing challenge for its distributor, Paramount. Apparently the studio is afraid Jason Reitman’s humorous drama about corporate downsizing may touch a raw nerve. But how could this critically acclaimed movie be a marketing challenge? We’ve got two words that might help Paramount’s advertising campaign: George. Clooney. Sheesh, maybe we should be marketers.

Actually, maybe we should become linguistics experts instead. USC linguistics professor Paul R. Frommer was brought in by James Cameron – writer and director of a little upcoming release called “Avatar” – to develop the language of the 10-foot tall blue Smurfs – um. . . aliens – who inhabit Pandora, the setting for the film’s conflict.  Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 31: Blind Sided By Adam Lambert’s Double Standard


Showbiz Sandbox 6: Down With ‘Up’ And Other Contrarian Opinions

We are excited to be joined by journalist Anne Thompson of Thompson On Hollywood who recently returned to the United States after covering the Cannes Film Festival. You may remember Anne as the West Coast Editor for Premiere Magazine and Film Comment, not to mention her stint as the Deputy Film Editor at The Hollywood Reporter. She’s also written for a plethora of media outlets including, The New York Times, Washington Post, Wired and LA Weekly. Anne fills us in on who scored big at this past year’s festival and who wound up spinning their wheels.

There was plenty to talk about this week with Pixar’s tenth animated film “Up” winning praise from both critics and audiences. The film earned $68.2 million during it’s opening weekend in North America, but not a dime from Karen Woodward who’s not a fan of animated films (or as she calls them. . . cartoons). “Up” may just give “The Hangover” a run for its money when it opens next week. The comedy flick from director Todd Philips has been receiving a lot of buzz as a potential sleeper hit. Another animated film trying to capture people’s attention is Robert Zemeckis’ take on “A Christmas Carol”. Though it’s not due out until November of this year, Disney has launched a promotional tour which will have clips of the film visiting 40 cities over the next six months by train.  Actor Jim Carrey tells us why another version of the classic tale is being made. Continue reading Showbiz Sandbox 6: Down With ‘Up’ And Other Contrarian Opinions


Showbiz Sandbox 5: A Travesty Of American Idol Justice

Kris Allen and Adam Lambert On American Idol The week leading up to Memorial Day was chock full of juicy entertainment news.

The Cannes Film Festival wrapped up in France awarding Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke it’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. Karen Woodward and J. Sperling Reich recap all the festival winners. In North America the Ben Stiller starrer “Night At The Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” opened with $70 million against “Terminator: Salvation”. McG’s attempt to reboot the “Terminator” franchise came in second at the box office with $53.8 million. “Star Trek” continued to rake in the dough with an additional $29.4 million and a cumulative $191 million in North America.

Television ratings were also bolstered by the star studded finale of the Fox network’s musical reality show “American Idol”. Kris Allen beat out Adam Lambert during a telecast that an estimated 28.84 million Americans tuned into. That ties the record for least-watched finale in recent “American Idol” memory, though nmore than 100 million votes were cast, a new record for the show. While Karen believes the results were a travesty of justice, Lambert may not be walking away empty handed after all; Billboard reports the rock group Queen may be interested in the young singer to front the band. Musical pop star Pink wasn’t happy with “American Idol” either, though more because she says they butchered one of her songs.

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