Showbiz Sandbox 142: Is The MPAA Rating System Broken?

Though the MPAA often rates more than 700 films per year, the number of rating disputes rarely reaches the double digits. This year however eight films have already appealed their ratings and it’s not even April. Has the MPAA lost touch with modern culture or are filmmakers beginning to push the boundaries with edgier content? Ethan Noble, of Motion Picture Consulting, helps guide filmmakers and studios through the ratings process. Noble, who recently tried to appeal the restrictive rating on the documentary “Bully”, provides an overview of the MPAA’s rating system and tells us whether it needs to be fixed.

Speaking of the MPAA, they released their annual report on the motion picture industry. Moviegoing may have declined 4% in North America, but overseas revenue grew more than 5% and is booming in markets such as China and Japan.

We previously predicted that Broadway shows such as “Sister Act” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” would close by now. Despite playing to half empty theaters and consistently losing money, they are still running night after night. What gives?

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Showbiz Sandbox 86: Why TV Viewing Is Rising As Moviegoing Declines

On more than a few occasions during 2010 one could hardly fault moviegoers for feeling as if they’d been duped as they left theaters. Movieline journalist and author Alonso Duralde believes that in at least seven instances films were misrepresented by their marketing campaigns. He discusses, among others, the arthouse movie that was sold as an action thriller, the riotous comedy that isn’t funny at all, and a princess tale disguised as a swashbuckling adventure.

Marketing could hardly be the primary reason 2010’s box office was down slightly from the previous year’s record earnings. With ticket sales off by an estimated 5.36% the only thing propping up film grosses were higher ticket prices, which noticeably rose over the past year.

On the other hand, Nielsen reports that Americans are watching more television than last year, around 34 hours per week. Unfortunately for the major broadcast networks which once ruled the airwaves, viewership has become fractured as it spread out across hundreds of cable channels. The only big TV winner during 2010 was living sporting events, which accounted for eight of the top ten highest rated shows of the year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 82: Training For The Awards Season Marathon

The end of the year always has more “best of” lists and awards show news than any media outlet knows what to do with. Over the past week nominees were announced for the Independent Spirit Awards, the Grammys and the Annies (for animated films). In Europe, they’ve already started holding awards ceremonies, with “The King’s Speech” cleaning up at the British Independent Film Awards and “Ghost Writer” topping the European Film Awards.

Competing at next year’s awards shows will likely be a few films selected for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival which will take place in January. Some outlets noted that the festival’s competition selection didn’t have enough star driven films, but artistic director John Cooper points to the premieres section which has been programmed with films sure to keep the Park City paparazzi quite busy.

In television news, it appears the degree to which networks and advertisers trust Nielsen’s rating system is decreasing by the day. They claim Nielsen’s method of acquiring its numbers is antiquated.  Meanwhile, on Broadway, all anyone wants to talk about is “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark”. While most avid theater-goers believe the super hero musical is going to be awful, they all still can’t wait to see it.

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Showbiz Sandbox 81: Kanye West Spins His Own Hype

The week of Thanksgiving is usually slow when it comes to entertainment news, but not this year. There was a horse race at the box office as Disney’s 50th animated feature nearly toppled the seventh Harry Potter film at the box office. “Tangled” received positive reviews and earned an impressive $69 million over the four day holiday weekend.

Also bowing last week was Kanye West’s fifth studio album which is being hailed by critics as a masterpiece. But even before critics had weighed in West had jumped on popular social networking platforms to promote the release and his image. A story in the Los Angeles Times claims the hip-hop star has become a master at creating and controlling his own hype. If that’s the case, then why does West have such a terrible reputation as a troublemaker?

Also trying to promote themselves via social media was Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. The furry blue “cookie enthusiast” is campaigning to host “Saturday Night Live” starting with a video on YouTube. Don’t laugh too hard though, since “SNL” seems to be where the Oscars are scouting for hosts. Just ask two former SNL guests James Franco and Anne Hathaway who will be co-hosting the 83rd Academy Awards.

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Showbiz Sandbox 80: Disney Dumps Fairy Tales For Original Stories

As “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” debuted to $125 million in its opening weekend, Disney prepared to release its 50th animated feature film less than a week later. However, despite building a multi-billion dollar empire based on stories that feature princesses, according to Dawn C. Chmielewski of the Los Angeles Times “Tangled” may be the last fairy tale we see out of the studio. She joins us to explain how future Disney Animation titles will focus on original stories.

Reality shows continue to dominate television news, not to mention political news. The media seemed all abuzz last week over how Bristol Palin, the daughter of Sarah Palin, had not yet been voted off “Dancing With the Stars”. She even beat out pop stars such as Brandy. There were accusations that conservative Tea Party supporters were rigging the voting on the show.

Meanwhile, Justin Bieber swept the American Music Awards, winning four trophies including Artist of the Year. Unfortunately for Bieber though, nobody was watching since the telecast received the worst ratings in its history.

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