Showbiz Sandbox 331: Apparently Warner Bros. Needs to Start Making Donuts

In a scathing open letter published last week, an alleged ex-Warner Bros. employee took the studio and its chairman Kevin Tsujihara to task for a number of recent missteps. The author mocks studio brass for doubling down on the talent delivering critical duds such as “Batman v Superman” and their inability to make a hit movie, despite somehow managing to keep their jobs.

Though the veracity of the letter is questionable, it caused ripples in Hollywood not because it revealed a trove of inside secrets, but more due to the fact that it publicly stated what so many have been whispering about Warner Bros. lately; a lack of leadership and a confused executive team have led to a year of mixed results.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching the Rio Olympics, along with three or four billion viewers around the world. Despite audience figures that are down from the London games in numerous territories, the Summer Olympics is arguably still a ratings juggernaut hard to compete against, giving networks broadcasting the event a serious advantage.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how a Netflix documentary helped overturn a murder conviction, why Thomas Gibson got fired from “Criminal Minds” and Comedy Central cancels “The Nightly Show”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 286: The 2015 Mid-Year Box Office and Music Sales Report

With the year now half over we join the rest of the entertainment industry in reviewing how 2015 is shaping up at the box office and for music sales. As predicted, the worldwide box office is on track to set another annual record thanks in part to three blockbuster releases that have each earned more than a billion dollars.

China continues to be an ever more important movie market as the country’s box office surged more than 50% during the first six months of the year with imported titles leading the way. Meanwhile, Hollywood movies have fared better in India than in past years with two passing the billion rupee level, a well-established benchmark of box office success.

The picture isn’t as rosy when it comes to music revenue. North American album sales are down 4% and digital downloads have fallen more than 10%. The declines may be caused by on-demand music streaming which has increased 74% so far this year. Whatever the reason, Taylor Swift isn’t sweating it since her most recent album has sold more than 2 million copies this year alone.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Grateful Dead perform one final concert, massive layoffs at the BBC and HBO Now is a huge hit in the iTunes app store.

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Showbiz Sandbox 217: In Hollywood You’re Nobody Till Somebody Sues You

The entertainment industry is marking the end of 2013 with a flurry of lawsuits all having to do, one way or another, with profit participation. Moguls Harvey and Bob Weinstein have filed suit against Warner Bros. over profits from sequels to “The Hobbit”, a property they originally owned. Then there’s the fired creator of “The Walking Dead” who is suing AMC claiming the network owes him tens of millions of dollars for the hit television series.

Filmmaker James Cameron is no stranger to legal battles since he is constantly having to fend off plagiarism lawsuits. Last week the director said he struck a tax deal with New Zealand to film not one, but three “Avatar” sequels in the country.

Golden Globe nominations were announced last week helping solidify awards season frontrunners such as “12 Years A Slave”, “American Hustle” and “Gravity” among others. Keep in mind, only about 90 international entertainment journalists get to nominate and vote for the Globes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the new additions to the National Film Registry, the new members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and how Beyoncé surprised fans with a new album.

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Showbiz Sandbox 208: Why Studios Are Reshuffling Their Executive Ranks

Movie moguls have always faced unreliable job security, though never more so than over the last two years. Beginning in early 2012 five of the six major Hollywood movie studios have fired their top executives and reshuffled existing management. We discuss what’s causing the studio shakeup and it it will affect the movies we see in years to come.

Soon enough unemployed studio big shots may be able to find work in South Korea’s film industry. With a wave of fresh homegrown talent and exciting new stories finding their way into theaters, the country’s box office has skyrocketed making it one of the world’s strongest movie markets.

When it comes to box office on Broadway, it’s become a tradition for productions to boast when they’ve broken even. This also means we can do some quick math to conclude how much it costs to keep a show up and running on a weekly basis, a figure that many productions don’t always like to share.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including David Letterman’s new late night contract, New York City Opera files for bankruptcy and a jury decides a concert promoter is not liable for the death of Michael Jackson.

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Showbiz Sandbox 173: Spoiler Alert! Your Movie Has A Kicker

Frustrated at not knowing if the movie he was watching would have any special scenes during or after the credits Chris Ramey did something about it. Ramey is the founder of What’s After The Credits? a website that details kickers, as they are often called, to popular movies, television shows and video games. He tells how what inspired him to create the site and how its grown in popularity.

Speaking of popular, “Skyfall” is not only the most successful James Bond film of all time, it has also become the highest grossing movie of all time for Sony Pictures and the United Kingdom. Yet despite positive reviews, the film hasn’t been appearing in any of the recent year end critic polls.

Grammy nominations were announced last week and with acts like the Black Keys racking up five nominations, including Album of the Year, they had a rock and roll vibe. It is nice to see the Grammys include a lot of fresh faces in some of their top categories and refrain from knee-jerk nominations for veteran performers. We’ll provide a rundown of the nominations.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the expansion of iTunes to 56 new countries, Netflix signs an exclusive content deal with Disney and how much Psy is making off of his hit song “Gangnam Style”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 172: The TV Industry Has Its Head Up Its Ass

Kevin Reilly, chairman of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting, realizes the ways people watch TV have radically and irrevocably changed. He believes the industry has not even remotely caught up to that fact yet. Or, as he puts it, “We have our head up our ass.” We’ll discuss the checklist Reilly provided at recent industry event which touched on every facet of the business.

As the year draws to a close the awards season has begun to heat up as both the Gotham Awards and European Film Awards were handed out last week. We’ll give you a rundown of who the big winners were and which movies are topping the first few year-end critics polls.

In theater news one can make it big with an Off-Broadway production, they just can’t make big money. A few recent hit shows are closing after barely breaking even or never turning a profit.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a list of top earning musicians, Jeff Zucker lands at CNN and why China may surpass the United States as the biggest movie market in the world.

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

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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