Showbiz Sandbox 225: Comcast and TimeWarner Cable Is A Marriage Made In….

February 17, 2014

The proposed merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable has presented industry analysts with a number of complicated questions. Providing some of the answers is David Gelles, a business reporter for the New York Times, who joins us to provide background and insight into a transformative $45 billion deal that would combine the two largest media and technology providers in North America.

Though there are no legislative restrictions, will the U.S. government try to prevent to the two cable giants from consolidating? What concessions will the regulators ask of Comcast if allowing the merger to go through? How will consolidation give Comcast leverage in negotiations with content providers? Would the combined companies have too much control over the media? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for consumers?

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the BAFTA awards were handed out over the weekend to films with strong British ties. That wasn’t the case at the Berlin Film Festival where Chinese movies took home the top prizes.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut, actress Ellen Page’s inspiring coming-out speech, and an update on actor Shia Labeouf’s latest performance art stunt.

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Showbiz Sandbox 223: The 2013 Worldwide Box Office – Who Won, Who Lost and Why

February 3, 2014

Thanks to surging theatrical grosses in countries such as Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia, the international box office more than doubled North American earnings in 2013, topping out at a record $25 billion. Though Hollywood studio content continues to dominate globally, receipts for local productions are beginning to play a more significant role in many markets. We provide a breakdown of the annual box office for of all the major territories and explain why some fared better than others.

Speaking of breaking records, the telecast of this year’s Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had an audience of 112 million viewers. That makes it the most watched television show in U.S. history. As is often the case, the commercials proved more interesting than the game.

Last week the industry also mourned the tragic death of Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from what appears to be a drug overdose. Unfortunately, obit writers were also kept busy with the passing of folk musician Pete Seeger, studio executive Tom Sherak and legendary animator Arthur Rankin Jr.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including an Oscar nomination for Best Song gets rescinded, “Back to the Future” is being turned into a Broadway musical and Disney plans to reboot Chip ‘n Dale.

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Showbiz Sandbox 186: Bill Carter of the NY Times on Cable Ratings, Jay Leno and the Shifting Television Landscape

March 18, 2013

Bill Carter of the New York Times has been reporting on the television industry for over 30 years. Who better to ask about why nothing seems to make any sense about this year’s television season? For example, cable shows have been pulling in more viewers than any of the networks. Broadcast networks that were topping the ratings just months ago, are now struggling at the back of the pack. As if that wasn’t enough, it looks as if the battle over late night programming is heating up again.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Carter touches on everything from the reason networks have been cutting back their original programming to why ratings have become so complicated to tabulate (hint: it has to do with DVRs). He explains all the troubles NBC is having not only in primetime, but also with their morning news programming. Carter literally wrote the book on late night television (actually two of them), so his thoughts about which of the ever growing list of hosts is most dominant, and why, is rather insightful.

Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival announced the selection of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as their opening night film. What stunned many Cannes veterans is that the festival would choose a film which will open theatrically in North America just five days before it premieres on the Croisette this May.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines, including “Django” in China, “Veronica Mars” on Kickstarter and David Bowie’s return to the music sales charts.

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Showbiz Sandbox 179: How To Gamble And Win On Broadway

January 28, 2013

This year alone there are at least 15 new shows being mounted on Broadway including adaptations of movies such as “Diner” and “Big Fish”. At one point or another all were in search of financial backing, however well known productions with big name stars often don’t pay dividends. We review which upcoming stagings smart, experienced Broadway investors should be banking on.

A very successful Sundance Film Festival came to an end last week as distributors left Park City having acquired a dozen or more independent films. We discuss the reason behind the frenzied sales activity and why some films came with steep seven-figure price tags.

Since we’re on the subject of paying out or investing money, it looks as if the cable bill for Los Angelenos will be going up again thanks to the L.A. Dodgers deal with Time Warner Cable for a new sports channel. Does one market really need six sports networks. More importantly, why are the customers in a single market forced to pay for them whether they want them or not.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Warner Bros. new CEO, JJ Abrams signs on to direct the new “Star Wars” and Fox begs viewers to use their DVRs.

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Showbiz Sandbox 152: Rupert Murdoch Shows Off His Split Personality

July 3, 2012

Last week, in-between sending Twitter posts about the break-up of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, News Crop. chairman Rupert Murdoch announced he would be splitting one of the world’s biggest media conglomerates into two different companies; one for the publishing entities, the other for the much more profitable film and television operations. Could the tycoon be trying to focus attention on something other than the ongoing phone hacking scandal he is embroiled in?

Speaking of scandals, Charlie Sheen returned to television with a bang (no pun intended). His new series, “Anger Management” set viewership records for a scripted comedy series. If the first 10 episodes prove to be a ratings hit, FX has promised to produce another 90 episodes.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 176 professionals to become members and it looks like they’re becoming more of an equal opportunity group. In fact, they have finally included hair dressers in the makeup category at the Oscars, renaming it Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment news, the “Today” show’s continuing troubles, Arsenio Hall’s return to late night television and the record breaking ratings for Eurocup 2012.

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Showbiz Sandbox 97: What The Failure Of “Mars Needs Moms” Means For Hollywood

March 22, 2011

When Disney’s animated film “Mars Needs Moms” flopped at the box office, film industry insiders struggled to pinpoint a possible cause.  Was it the motion-capture animation style?  The lackluster storyline?  Are multiplexes saturated with too animated family films?  Have higher 3D ticket prices caused moviegoers to become more picky?  We are joined by New York Times media reporter Brooks Barnes who faults a long list of culprits for the movies failure.

Meanwhile, music industry big shots trekked to Austin, Texas last week hoping to find undiscovered artists at the South by Southwest music conference.  However, 13-year-old Rebbecca Black didn’t have to attend SxSW to attract attention.  She became the world’s latest pop-star in under a week when her much maligned song and music video turned into a viral Internet sensation.

Streaming video continues to change the television landscape.  Video streaming service Netflix made the jump into original programming by picking up a television series.  Such a move was aimed at keeping Netflix ahead of an endless assortment of competitors entering the market.

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Showbiz Sandbox 36: Can “Avatar” Beat “Titanic”? Heck No!

January 7, 2010

“Avatar” continues its takeover of the box office, while “The Hurt Locker” appears to be taking over the awards season. James Cameron’s 3D labor of love entered the list of top 10 grossing films of all time and may be poised to become the highest grossing movie ever, a title now held by another Cameron film, “Titanic”. “Avatar” is now one of only five films to ever earn over a billion dollars world-wide.

Now the prognostication begins about whether “Avatar” (and Cameron) will be nominated for an Academy Award? His ex-wife’s movie “The Hurt Locker” certainly seems to be headed that way. Director Kathryn Bigelow is earning raves for the film and she is being being heavily favored to be the first female to win a Best Director Oscar. Between Bigelow and Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated”), female directors, or at least the discussion of their recent success, is the topic du jour in Hollywood.

Another favorite topic at the beginning a year is reflection and prediction. What were the top reviewed movies of the decade? Did you see any of them? Read more

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