Showbiz Sandbox 196: Hollywood’s Frivolous Five Year Plan

June 24, 2013

Hollywood movie studios have a history of announcing the release date for big tentpole films a year or more in advance. The goal has always been to secure a prime weekend that will force the competition to stear clear. Lately however studios have taken to scheduling releases five years in advance. With some untitled projects yet to start production or even complete a script, it appears that release dates are more important than the movies themselves.

With longstanding geographic monopolies in-place cable companies rarely have to worry about competition, other than from satellite providers. That may be why Time Warner Cable is facing a class-action lawsuit which claims customers, especially non-sports fans, are being forced to pay for the company-owned sports channels to help offset the cost of expensive licensing deals.

Speaking of lawsuits, the government wrapped up its anti-trust case against Apple over the fixing of prices for e-books. While the Justice Department went into the trial looking like a winner, in the end Apple may have proved it was innocent of any illegal activity.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Robert Downey Jr.’s deal to play Iron Man in the next two “Avengers” movies, Billboard disses Jay-Z and Warner Bros. shakes up its top executives.

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Showbiz Sandbox 190: How The Academy’s New Voting Rules Will Affect The Oscars?

May 6, 2013

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it will now be allowing members to vote in all 24 Oscar categories, including Documentary Short Subject and Foreign Language Film. Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large and host of the Oscar Talk podcast, believes the change is long overdue. She explains what the old voting rules were and how these new ones will affect the Oscars moving forward.

The Rolling Stones are also making changes, at least to the ticket prices for their current North American tour. With face-value prices upwards of $600 has the legendary UK band and its tour promoters misjudged fan’s appetites for paying top dollar for big acts? Based on the number of unsold tickets to the first few shows of the tour, the answer is yes.

Meanwhile on Broadway, the Tony Award nominations were announced last week. “Kinky Boots”, “Matilda” and “Lucky Guy” lead the pack with the most nominations. We try to make educated predictions, and blind guesses, as to who might walk home with a Tony in June.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including six billion hours of YouTube videos, trademarking superheroes and why studios don’t want to pay a tax on movie tickets in China.

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Showbiz Sandbox 176: Hollywood Unchained – 2012 Sets Another Box Office Record

January 7, 2013

Once again Hollywood raked in record earnings at the North American box office in 2012, though this time it wasn’t because of increased ticket prices.  In fact, both revenue and attendance were up nearly 6% during the year as 1.36 billion tickets were sold to set a new annual box office record of $10.8 billion.

Internationally box office receipts were off slightly.  After a string of years with record grosses, Hollywood movies raked in $13.5 billion outside North America.  The new year is looking up as well since nine films pegged as Oscar contenders are all still raking in big grosses.

The music business didn’t have such good news.  Album sales during 2012 declined 4.4% in the United States where Adele spent a second year at the top of the heap.  What’s noteworthy is that digital downloads outpaced physical album sales for the first time according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the sale of Al Gore’s cable network, the rising ratings for Big Bang Theory and why YouTube is deleting views for music videos.

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Showbiz Sandbox 161: Patrick Goldstein On Departing The L.A. Times And Seeing The Big Picture

September 4, 2012

Entertainment reporter Patrick Goldstein surprised everyone two weeks ago in announcing he was leaving the Los Angeles Times after 12 years. His column, The Big Picture, was a must read for anyone in or just following the industry. Goldstein joins us to discuss his departure from the Times, the state of the movie business and where we might be able to read his work in the future.

If one were to look solely at box office alone, they wouldn’t be faulted for believing the film industry was in dire straits. Though receipts were only down 3% to $4.2 billion this summer, movie attendance dropped to a 20 year low in North America.

Televised sports, on the other hand, isn’t having any trouble attracting an audience. In fact, cable networks can’t seem to pay enough for the broadcast rights to sporting events as ESPN proved by signing a multi-billion dollar deal with Major League Baseball.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bruce Willis is mad at iTunes, MTV cancels “Jersey Shore” and how you’ll be able to play, but not hear, Beck’s latest music.

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Showbiz Sandbox 153: Hollywood Loses Another Battle In The Copyright War

July 10, 2012

Fearing that it would restrict freedom of speech, basic civil rights and an open Internet, the European Parliament voted down the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) last week. The move effectively kills the international anti-piracy legislation that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have lobbied so hard for. We explain what ACTA’s defeat means for Hollywood and what anti-piracy measures you may be hearing about next.

It’s hard to believe piracy is affecting the entertainment industry. Music sales, which have been in a slow decline over the past decade, are actually up this year thanks to digital sales. Movie box office is also up with studios such as Disney having already earned $1 billion in North America alone.

Billion was also a number subscription movie service Netflix has been using a lot lately. Their customers watched more than a billion hours of content in June. That’s not only a new record for the company, but it would make them more popular than any U.S. cable network.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including Hollywood’s highest-paid actor, Charlie Sheen’s slipping ratings and why we won’t be seeing “Raging Bull 2” anytime soon.

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Showbiz Sandbox 150: Is George Lucas A Schmuck?

June 4, 2012

Last week legendary filmmaker George Lucas announced he would be stepping down as the head of Lucasfilm and hired veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy to head up the company that bears his name. With Lucas retiring what will happen to his blockbuster franchises such as “Indian Jones”? Will we finally get a restored version of the original “Star Wars” trilogy on Blu-Ray?

Rather than retire after his long, successful run heading up Warner Bros., Alan Horn will step in as chairman of Walt Disney Studios. Many industry insiders wonder if the executive who oversaw the “Harry Potter” series will have a creative role in what is perceived to largely be a babysitting position.

The Tony Awards will be held this weekend and we give you the lowdown on who has the best shot at taking home Broadway’s top honor.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a new king of late night television, Oprah’s new book club and why Hollywood and Silicon Valley should work together to stop piracy.

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Showbiz Sandbox 149: Cannes Falls For “Amour”

May 29, 2012

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 146: High Frame Rate Hijinks On “The Hobbit”

May 7, 2012

Movie theater owners were abuzz after seeing the first extended footage of “The Hobbit” a few weeks ago at CinemaCon. Most however didn’t have anything positive to say about Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated prequel to his “Lord of the Rings” franchise. The filmmaker decided to shoot the film at 48 frames per second, twice the speed of traditional 35mm film, and many who saw the clips felt they looked like a cheap soap opera. Jackson claims the footage was from unfinished scenes, though it left many wondering if high frame rate films are really worth all the hype.

Meanwhile, two months after Disney took a bath on “John Carter” when it bombed at the box office, the studio is raking in the dough on “Marvel’s The Avengers”. While the film may go on to be the highest grossing film of the year (so far), it wasn’t enough to save the job of Disney chairman Rich Ross.

Movies are even making news on Broadway. Leading the pack of Tony Award nominees last week were two musicals adapted from films; “Once” and “Newsies”.

We also cover some of the top entertainment news stories from the past two weeks including James Bond’s new publisher, Jack White’s first number one album and a Amazon’s plans to crowd source good television shows.

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Showbiz Sandbox 113: Hollywood Studios Think Twice About Comic-Con

July 25, 2011

Attendance at this year’s Comic-Con was higher than ever. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times and Alex Billington of First Showing were in San Diego last weekend sitting in on, if not moderating, panel discussions with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Francis Coppola and “Game of Thrones” cast members. In filling us in on all the highlights they explain why some studios skipped this year’s festivities and why next year’s convention is set to be the biggest Comic-Con yet.

There was also some sad news this past weekend as we learned about the untimely death of soul singer Amy Winehouse at the age of 27. The troubled young singer battled with drug addiction since rising to stardom in 2006 and her death raises the question over what responsibility the entertainment industry has in helping artists with drug or alcohol problems.

There was better news on Broadway where at least three recent shows turned a profit with even more shows about to follow suit. Even the much-hyped disaster “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is shaping up to be a financial success.

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Showbiz Sandbox 64: Buzzing About Comic-Con, Digital Comics and E-Books

July 26, 2010

Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times, Alex Billington of First Showing and Anne Thompson of indieWIRE all attended the 41st annual Comic-Con. They stop by to fill us in on all the the movies and television shows that managed to generate a lot of buzz (as well as a few that fizzled). We recap the pop-culture convention’s highlights and breaking news items.

Of course, before Comic-Con invited movies and television shows to the party, it used to be about buying and selling comic books. However, as Alex Pham of the Los Angeles Times informs us, physical comic books may be an endangered item thanks to the growing popularity of digital comics. These newfangled comics have animation, sound effects and narration. Pham also explains how e-books are changing the future of how and what we read.

E-books were the source of major controversy in the publishing world this past week. Literary agent Andrew Wylie announced he would bypass traditional publishing firms and form his own digital publishing company to release e-book versions of his client’s work, including out of print work from the likes of John Updike and and Philip Roth. Rachel Deahl, senior news editor at Publishers Weekly, tells us why this move was so controversial within the publishing industry.

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