Showbiz Sandbox 307: Can Guild Nominations Forecast Oscar Winners?

This year’s Academy Award nominations will soon be announced and we wonder if one can predict who might take home Oscar gold by watching the annual honors handed out by Hollywood’s labor guilds. We’ll tell you how won Golden Globes, which have proven less reliable in forecasting Oscar winners, and take a look at who the Brits shine a spotlight on via the BAFTAs.

Much like the movie business, publishing has become a global game. That makes the recent broadside by groups representing authors around the world especially notable. They’re calling on publishers to offer author contracts that are more equitable and represent the way business is done in the 21st Century.

Director/Producer Gavin Polone believes Hollywood studios and television networks are only hurting themselves when they decide to cook the books when it comes to reporting earnings to profit participants. He argues that the talent and creatives they cheat on the backend have no incentive to keep costs down on the front end.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Netflix went worldwide, actor Sean Penn went to Mexico to interview the head of a drug cartel and the death of legendary musician David Bowie.

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Showbiz Sandbox 299: The Gender Pay Gap Lands A Starring Role In Hollywood

Hollywood’s gender pay gap is once again a hot topic of discussion thanks to a frank essay on the subject by Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Lawrence. We are joined by Karen Woodward, an entertainment industry social media consultant, who suggests that the crass and angry tone the actress took in her piece helped gain attention for the issue and start a conversation on how to fix the problem.

We’ll hear what Lawrence had to say about being paid less than her male co-stars, specifically how she’s no longer concerned with being “liked” or finding a kinder, gentler way to express her opinion. Now at least one of her frequent co-stars has plans to take up the cause with what could be a very effective strategy.

Meanwhile, with the number of major record labels having already declined to three from what was once six, it appears the industry’s contraction may soon affect music publishing with Sony/ATV looking for a new owner. Could one of the world’s largest music publishers soon merge with a competitor?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Playboy magazine is getting rid of its centerfold, how “The Walking Dead” went global in a big way and Netflix earnings and subscriber growth disappoint Wall Street.

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Showbiz Sandbox 298: Predicting The 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

Among the 2016 nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced this past week were legendary musical acts like The Smiths that will surely be inducted, unheralded backing groups such as the J.B.s that are a long shot and even a popular 1970s funk band, Chic, that has now been nominated ten times. The nominations that generated the most media discussion were probably for pop star Janet Jackson and N.W.A., the hip hop group which popularized gansta rap. We debate which of this year’s nominees are deserving of induction and which are real head scratchers.

Meanwhile government and film industry regulators in China agreed to allow greater oversight into their box office receipts through a public website. Only time will tell whether this was a symbolic gesture meant to assuage Hollywood studios or a true step toward more transparency.

We’ll also dip back into book publishing, where despite recent setbacks many companies are trying to launch all-you-can read subscription services.. Given the numbers revealed by Amazon for its Kindle Unlimited program, it appears authors don’t have much to gain.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a lifetime achievement award for composer John Williams, the plans to adapt Nancy Drew for television and Woody Allen goes digital.

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Showbiz Sandbox 268: Going Backstage At The Grammys With David Wild

The Grammy Awards were held last weekend to honor the year’s best music. David Wild, one of the producers and writers of the Grammys telecast (not to mention a contributing editor at Rolling Stone), takes us behind the scenes at the ceremony. He explains what it’s like to get Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj on the same page and the difficulty of describing Sia’s unique stage performance to Stevie Wonder.

Meanwhile, a couple of big media conglomerates announced significant management changes over the past week; Amy Pascal will be stepping down as head of Sony Pictures due in no small part to the recent cyber attack against the company and Tom Staggs is anointed as the most likely candidate to take over for Disney CEO, Bob Iger when the latter steps down in 2018.

Speaking of big name execs, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler finally submitted his proposal for net neutrality, which would regulate ISPs to enforce open internet protections.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why actor Michael Gambon is retiring from the stage, the uproar over news anchor Brian Williams and how Kodak is keeping film stock alive.

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Showbiz Sandbox 253: Nielsen Is Rating TV Shows By The (Wrong) Numbers

The method by which television ratings are collected and tabulated has long been criticized as imperfect. Now Nielsen, the research firm which provides the ratings, admitted this past week it had been reporting inaccurate audience figures to broadcast networks for the past seven months. Turns out viewership of this year’s season premieres was lower than originally thought. We’ll try and explain what the heck is going on here?

Comedian Adam Sandler is back in the news, though this time it’s for a movie which isn’t being made… even by Netflix. And just as she hits her stride as an action star, actress Scarlett Johansson (temporarily) gives up movies to appear in a television mini-series.

Even the world of live theater is a bit bizarre lately, at least according to composer Stephen Sondheim who is working on a new musical based on two surreal movies by the late Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. If that’s not crazy enough, the biggest box office winner on Broadway this fall has been “The Lion King”, a musical that has been running for 17 years.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Katy Perry books a trip to the Super Bowl, e-book software that spies on you and the fifth season of “The Walking Dead” premieres to record numbers… or so we’ve been told.

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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 205: Awards Season Commences With Stellar Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals

Four of the last five films to win Best Picture Oscars first appeared at the Telluride Film Festival before officially premiering the following week at the Toronto International Film Festival. Anne Thompson from Indiewire attended both festivals this year and fills us in on the big movies everyone will be talking about during the upcoming awards season.

This past week also saw the death of Ray Dolby, the audio pioneer who founded Dolby Laboratories to advance the art of motion picture sound. We debate whether the film industry is now discouraging future inventors from working in the space.

Meanwhile, revenue from digital movies and television shows continues to climb, up 24% this year alone. Unlike theatrical box office though, studios have remained tight lipped when it comes to providing actual sales figures, fearing actors and filmmakers will want a bigger cut.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the big winners at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, a racy Miley Cyrus video that racked up YouTube records and J.K. Rowling spins-off Harry Potter.

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Showbiz Sandbox 182: Last Year’s Movies Provide A Wealth of Riches

For the past four years blogger Aaron Rich has been reviewing the movies he sees on his blog All The Movies I Watch, with a strong emphasis on independent and international titles. Last year he saw more than 500 films and says it was a good year for movies, as long as you ignored what Hollywood had to offer. Rich joins us to discuss some of his best (and worst) movies of 2012, many of which may be unfamiliar to you.

As we roll towards another Oscars ceremony, it looks as if Ben Affleck’s “Argo” is poised to take home the year’s biggest prize; Best Picture. This past weekend it topped the Writers Guild Awards, along with “Zero Dark Thirty”. We have a few last minute predictions for who might be picking up this year’s Academy Awards.

At some point all of this year’s movies will wind up on video services such as Netflix. Yet we’ll never know how popular they are on Netflix because the company won’t divulge viewership numbers. This is making it very difficult to determine whether its own original programming, such as “House of Cards”, is a success.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how movie ticket prices went up in 2012, how Universal Music Publishing Group hopes to capitalize cover versions of its songs on YouTube, and why rock legend Chubby Checker is suing a software developer for stealing his name.

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Showbiz Sandbox 181: Why The Grammys Telecast Matters More Than Ever

While winning a Grammy Award can boost a musician’s record sales temporarily, a knockout performance during the widely viewed ceremony can launch a career. Simply ask Mumford & Sons who stole the show during the 2011 telecast and on Sunday took home the 2013 Grammy for Album of the Year. Will the Lumineers, who performed at this year’s ceremony, follow in their footsteps?

David Wild, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, helped write the Grammy telecast as he has for the past 12 years. He joins us to discuss how the show was put together, working with host LL Cool J and some of the elements that came off without a hitch (projecting images onto Carrie Underwood’s dress comes to mind). Wild even reveals John Mayer’s secret life as a joke writer.

Meanwhile, digital downloads are already outpacing physical sales in music and will surely do so with books and movies in the not too distant future. But what happens when you want to sell off all those media downloads in the now non-existent digital secondhand market? Amazon is trying to patent technology that will make such sales possible.

Of course we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including how “The Walking Dead” continues to increase viewership, an end to Don Johnson’s lawsuit over “Nash Bridges” and why some concerts may be sold out before tickets ever go on sale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 175: Fixing Electronic Oscar Voting In One Easy Step

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it would allow electronic voting for this year’s Oscar nominations many industry insiders felt it was long overdue.  However with a median age of 62, the Academy’s membership may not be ready to cast ballots online.  Heck, some members don’t even have computers.

Now reports have emerged that the Academy’s electronic voting procedure has hit a few speed bumps.  Members have had password problems and those that were able to log into the voting system found it difficult and complicated.  Some fear that voting for the Oscars will reach an all-time low.  Yet there may be a very simple way to overcome some of the security concerns the Academy and its members have in casting online ballots.

The National Film Registry cast a vote of their own last week, adding 25 films to its archives in the Library of Congress, declaring them culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.  Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean these films will actually be preserved.

Of course, we cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including a lucrative holiday box office, big changes for “The Walking Dead” and a historical court ruling for screenwriters.

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