Showbiz Sandbox 293: Why Forecasting Box Office Has Become So Difficult

September 7, 2015

Though this year’s North American summer box office may wind up being the second biggest on record at $4.4 billion, movie studios are finding it far more difficult to predict opening weekend grosses. An article in the Hollywood Reporter details how tracking pre-release box office has become unreliable in an age when social media buzz and movie review aggregation have become so prevalent.

Word-of-mouth can now spread so quickly that movies like “Ted 2” can be doomed 24 hours after release, opening 33% below its estimated $50 million first weekend gross. And it’s not just flops that suffer tracking mishaps, as evidenced by “Jurassic World” bowing to $208 million, 60% more than originally anticipated.

Until now, Apple hasn’t had to worry about movie box office or even television ratings, but all that might change if rumors the company is getting into producing original content are at all true.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Aretha Franklin wound up in court last week, why DreamWorks is leaving Disney and who the Academy selected to produce next year’s Oscar telecast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

March 16, 2015

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 243: United They Stand – SAG-AFTRA Forges Ground-Breaking Contract

July 7, 2014

Two years after merging their unions, and with their current contracts set to expire within hours, SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with studios and producers for a new three-year contract. Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and contributing editor at the Hollywood Reporter, discusses the proposed deal and what improvements actors managed to secure.

Music sales, on the other hand, aren’t improving at all. Nielsen reports that album and digital download sales for the first half of 2014 are down significantly. Could the increase in on demand music streaming be the cause?

Movies aren’t faring much better so far this year, at least not in North America and Germany where box office is down 12% and 8% respectively. Is something amiss with this summer’s blockbuster releases, or is setting new earnings records every year simply unrealistic?

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including how the characters from “Frozen” are crossing over to television, why cable set-top boxes gobble up so much energy and The Who plan on saying a long, slow goodbye during yet another one of their farewell tours.

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Showbiz Sandbox 229: Making South by Southwest A Family Affair

March 18, 2014

Countless bands long to play at South by Southwest, the music festival that takes place in Austin, Texas every March. The event has grown into an important showcases for undiscovered, unsigned and fast rising artists. The Family Crest, an indie rock band from San Francisco, is one of the buzzworthy acts that played at this year’s SxSW. Liam McCormick, the group’s songwriter and founding member, joins us to discuss what it’s being officially invited to play at such a prestigious festival.

In an in-depth conversation, McCormick walks us through how The Family Crest has managed to follow through on all the necessary achievements modern bands strive for in search of success; they’ve funded two albums via Kickstarter which feature hundreds of musicians, they’re signed to an indie record label and NPR is touting the group’s music, which of course can be easily found on all the popular streaming services. On top of all that, television series and advertising campaigns have begun licensing their music.

Much like The Family Crest, Disney is doing quite well for itself these days, at least when it comes to Broadway. What’s surprising is that it isn’t one of the company’s hot new productions that’s the highest grossing production on the Great White Way, but rather “The Lion King”, which opened 16 years ago. It’s all thanks to the new trend of dynamic ticket pricing. We’ll explain.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why the NFL is suing M.I.A., Amazon prepares to enter the streaming music business, and “Big Bang Theory” gets renewed for three whole seasons.

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Showbiz Sandbox 135: Is The SAG-AFTRA Merger Good For Hollywood?

February 6, 2012

After years of humoring the idea it looks as if two of Hollywood’s largest labor unions may actually merge. Detailing the history of SAG and AFTRA, Jonathan Handel, a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter and an entertainment attorney, explains the reasons behind why the unions might want to merge and what it all means for the entertainment industry.

The telecast of Super Bowl XLVI proved to be another ratings winner and as in previous years, is expected to be the most watched show of the year, if not all-time. Were audiences tuning in for the game or to watch Madonna’s extravagant half-time show?

Despite gaining a million subscribers last year the minuscule royalties paid by Spotify to independent musicians barely budged at all. Some industry veterans have grown weary of subscription music services and are advising they be used for promotional purposes only.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a new CEO at Sony, why you won’t see Bon Iver perform at the Grammys and how Facebook might turn U2’s Bono into a billionaire.

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Showbiz Sandbox 118: Mr. Television Rates This Year’s New Shows

September 12, 2011

There’s a good reason Marc Berman is known as Mr. Television. As the man behind MediaWeek’s daily television newsletter The Programming Insider his commentary on the medium reached more than 50,000 readers per day. Berman recently launched TV Media Insights, a new online destination for television and media with its own newsletter, forum and podcast. Berman handicaps this year’s Emmy Awards and also tells us which new shows are worth watching in the upcoming season.

We also continue our discussion on the publishing industry, which due to the dramatic changes in how they do business, is becoming one of the more fascinating parts of the entertainment industry. As e-book sales increase, popular authors are beginning to announce plans to release new work directly to readers and Amazon plans on creating a Netflix fof books.

Meanwhile, a The Hollywood Reporter served a cease and desist order on which sparked a war of words between the two trade outlets. Is the Reporter in financial trouble, and if so, should Deadline staff be spreading the word to potential advertisers?

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Showbiz Sandbox 68: Who Said Jennifer Aniston Was A Movie Star?

August 23, 2010

Who would have guessed that in this day and age a Sylvester Stallone movie could top the box office for two straight weeks. But Sly’s “The Expendables” finished first with $16 million beating out five new releases including the Jennifer Aniston vehicle “Switched”. The dramedy opened to a disappointing $8.1 million prompting entertainment pundits like Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times to question whether Aniston is truly a movie star.

Generating interest doesn’t seem to be a problem for “The Social Network”, which details the founding of Facebook. More than six weeks before its release the film directed by David Fincher is getting a ton of early Oscar buzz.

Google is also making waves in Hollywood. A book about the company’s early days is being turned into a movie and Google TV has the industry worried that consumers will start canceling their cable subscriptions en masse. According to a story in the New York Times however, Americans have not been cutting their cable cords in the large numbers once predicted. Instead, cable subscriptions have increased.

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Showbiz Sandbox 57: A Memo From James Cameron

June 7, 2010

It was kind of a slow news week in the entertainment world, especially when it comes to the North American box office.  Movie attendance is down 10% over last year’s summer blockbuster season.  Hollywood Reporter deputy film editor Carl DiOrio stops by with his theories as to why audiences are staying away from this year’s crop of Hollywood offerings.

The MTV Movie Awards were held last weekend and the telecast was filled with so much profanity half of it was bleeped out. Though few take the awards seriously, we’ll still fill you in on all the winners and Tom Cruise’s outstanding dance performance.

Over in television Bravo has been making a name for itself with a string of successful reality television shows including “The Real Housewives of New York”.  The network is not shy about letting the New York Times know that they use social media and the Internet to decide which shows are working, popular storylines and which cast members are break out stars deserving their own show.  Speaking of break out stars, the cast of the popular “Big Bang Theory” wants a 285% pay raise and are presenting a unified front when negotiating with the network.

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Showbiz Sandbox 56: What You Talkin’ Bout Guillermo?!

June 1, 2010

The past week’s entertainment news was filled with surprises. First Gary Coleman, star of the hit 80’s sitcom unexpectedly died at the age of 42 from a brain hemorrhage. Then, after more than two years of work, the ongoing turmoil at MGM causes director Guillermo del Toro call it quits on the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. A question lingers over whether Peter Jackson will step in to helm the film himself?

Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter, one of the industry’s big trade papers, left many mouths agape when they hired former Us Weekly editor Janice Min to transform the film into a broader weekly publication.

Maybe not such a surprise was the tepid box office results over the North American Memorial Day Weekend. Customarily the start of the summer blockbuster season, this year audiences stayed away from theaters, probably because they don’t find any of the new releases, including “Sex and The City 2” and “Prince of Persia” all that interesting. Another expected, though sad, turn of events was the passing of actor Dennis Hopper, who had been battling prostate cancer since last October.

Over in the music world, Germany’s Lena Meyer-Landrut won the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest with her catchy pop song “Satellite”.  Read more


Showbiz Sandbox 33: “Avatar” Is A $100 Hamburger

December 14, 2009

James Rocchi was one of the lucky entertainment journalists invited to the “Avatar” premiere and press junket in London and he joins us this week to tell us all about it. Rocchi also helps us dissect all those year-end “Top 10” critics lists, not to mention one that rates the year’s best unproduced screenplays. Who do you think will be on the red carpet at Oscar time?

And the Best of 2009 lists extend into television and music territory as well. The Los Angeles Times rounded up the TV winners and losers for the season (and we compare them to our own predictions for this year’s television series from Episode 22). Meanwhile, SoundScan released the best selling albums and artists of the decade. Guess how many of them were released before 2002? Listen to the podcast to find out.

We sail through some of the week’s top entertainment news headlines in our Big Deal/Big Whoop segment, including the possibility of a “Ghostbusters 3” sequel in the works. Read more