Showbiz Sandbox 326: How Brexit Will Affect the Entertainment Business

June 27, 2016

Thanks to the passage of a referendum in the United Kingdom dubbed Brexit, Britain will soon be leaving the European Union. Entertainment companies beyond those in the UK suddenly face a lot of uncertainty and confusion over deals they have already made and will be making in the months and years to come. We discuss how the Brexit vote may affect the entertainment industry.

In other troubling news, the long awaited (as in 20 years) sequel to “Independence Day” opened to disappointing box office returns. This has led to industry pundits spouting erroneous lessons Hollywood can take away from its release. Knowledgeable nuggets such as don’t wait too long to make a sequel (or did they forget about “Star Wars”) and don’t make sequels without the original star (though “Jurassic World” proved that theory wrong just last year).

We also take a look at virtual print fees or VPFs. A letter from one of our listeners asked us to clarify how small independent distributors can afford them. So, we review the history of VPFs, how they work around the world and when studios will stop paying them to theater owners.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including a court decides that legendary rock band Led Zeppelin didn’t plagiarize its biggest hit, “Mr. Robot” gets more episodes in its second season and “Star Trek” fan films get a green light from Paramount Pictures (sort of).

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

July 6, 2015

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 284: Taylor Swift Takes A Bite Out of Apple

June 22, 2015

When Apple announced its new streaming music service earlier this month certain members of the music industry were quick to voice their dismay over the terms the tech giant was offering. Specifically, indie record labels weren’t happy to see that Apple wouldn’t be paying licensing fees during the three month trial period the company was offering new subscribers. As the chorus of opposition grew louder it was none other than Taylor Swift who pushed Apple to reverse its payment policy.

In an open letter published to her website, the country musician turned pop star criticised the world’s largest music retailer for not compensating writers, producers, or artists during a new subscriber’s three month trial period. She says new artists, young songwriters and independent producers depend on such royalties to survive. In a move that some will argue demonstrates Swift’s influence within the industry, Apple actually relented.

Another entertainment business model currently being disrupted is that of television. With more consumers opting to cut their cable cord for over the top solutions, the NBA announced they would let basketball fans purchase out-of-market games on a per-game and per-team basis. This has huge implications for the broadcast industry as programming continues to slowly become unbundled.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the box office success of “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out”, a big payday for Jennifer Lawrence on her next film and gambling on who will be the next actor to play James Bond.

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Showbiz Sandbox 260: The Race To Build A Bigger, Louder And More Expensive Movie Theater

December 8, 2014

When it comes to giant screen cinema IMAX is still the most dominant player, but with theater owners building their own premium large format auditoriums new competitors have started to spring up. Dolby, a company known for cinema audio technology, is the latest to enter the fray with their own PLF offering that includes bigger screens, more immersive sound and, of course, a higher ticket price. Whether such offerings will catch on with moviegoers remains to be seen.

The only big news anyone in the entertainment industry wants to talk about right now is the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Security experts say it’s shaping up to be the largest and most damaging hack against a commercial business in history. Authorities investigating the crime are no closer to catching the perpetrator than when the incident first made headlines two weeks ago.

The Grammy Awards were also making headlines last week. In fact, the annual music awards show tried to stay at the top of the news cycle by announcing nominees via various platforms throughout the course of an entire day. The real story however, turned out to be which musicians actually received nominations and which were overlooked.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the name of the next James Bond film, U2 announces a world tour and CBS gets into another retransmission dispute.

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Showbiz Sandbox 247: Everything You’ve Heard About This Summer’s Box Office Is Wrong

September 1, 2014

Listening to the chorus of industry naysayers or reading all the media reports might lead you to believe this year’s summer movie season was a complete financial disaster from which Hollywood could not recover. Granted, North American box office declined 15% from the same period last year, marking an 8 year low, and attendance was off by 5%. Even so, there were no huge flops over the summer and certainly none that would send a shiver down the spine of studio execs.

In fact, most of this summer’s releases will make money when international receipts are added to their theatrical grosses. The only problem with that, as Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal points out, is that not all box office dollars are counted equally when they are earned overseas.

We’ll also discuss how giant telecom companies are trying to maintain their stranglehold on the Internet in the United States by preventing cities from offering broadband to residents as a public utility. Such legal skirmishes are becoming more important as we move toward streaming services for movies and music.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a new children’s book written by Bruce Springsteen, the first woman ever chosen to head the BBC and a King Arthur movie franchise may finally become a reality.

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Showbiz Sandbox 220: Content Owners Can’t Afford Your New 4K Ultra HD Television

January 13, 2014

Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas manufacturers stirred up a lot of buzz around 4K Ultra HD television sets. The proven and tested technology promises resolution four times greater than current high definition monitors. The biggest hurdle the industry must overcome for Ultra HD to work are the economics, specifically the high cost of delivering 4K content.

For those consumers who have given up on cable and broadcast television, commonly referred to as “cord-cutters”, the good news is they will now be able to watch wrestling via streaming video thanks to the WWE’s new online only network. However, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether they can continue using Aereo to stream local broadcast channels.

Meanwhile, this year’s awards season continues to chug along as the Golden Globes are handed out and the Director’s Guild of America announced their nominations.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including why Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus are too sexy for France, the demographics of last year’s Broadway ticket sales and whether a movie critic’s tweets can be used in advertisements.

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Showbiz Sandbox 194: Tony Awards Prove Broadway Knows How To Put On A Show

June 11, 2013

Once again actor Neil Patrick Harris proved he knows how to host an awards show with a dazzling turn as master of ceremonies at this year’s Tony Awards last Sunday. The ceremony provided its share of surprises and dramatic speeches from the likes of Cicely Tyson and pop-star Cyndi Lauper as “Kinky Boots” walked off with six Tonys including Best Musical. Though the telecast may have been poorly directed, it was filled with a mixed bag of performances from this season’s top Broadway shows.

For Broadway play or musical, a Tony can provide a huge boost at the box office, though it’s no guarantee. There has never been a magic formula for investing in the arts which is something JP Morgan and its partners should have looked into before loaning Paramount Pictures a load of cash to finance movies. Now everyone is suing each other after the bank discovered their Hollywood investments weren’t as risk free as they had initially thought.

That kind of inside news is usually reported by the likes of Nikki Finke over at her Deadline Hollywood blog. However, if a scoop from a competing online news source is correct, Finke’s days at Deadline may be numbered. Has Finke’s conentious reputation finally caught up with her, or will a crosstown rival need to eat some crow?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amazon’s European tax problems, Disney’s digital distribution plans, and the possibly illegal limitations of Microsoft’s new Xbox.

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Showbiz Sandbox 156: Olympic Telecasts Turn Everyone Into A Sports Expert

July 31, 2012

The 2012 Summer Olympics got off to an auspicious start last week with coverage of the opening ceremonies earning record ratings. With broadcasters presenting events live on multiple channels, as well as streaming online, it’s never been easier to keep up with the games. We review how broadcasters are covering the Summer Olympics, not to mention explain why there always seem to be empty seats at sold-out events.

Meanwhile, the aftershock of the “Dark Knight Rises” theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado continue to ripple through Hollywood. Box office grosses were down significantly over the past weekend, though it is hard to know if moviegoers are staying away out of fear, or if something else is deterring them from theatres … like coverage of the Olympics.

Maybe cinema patrons are simply staying home to watch Netflix. Despite turning a profit and increasing their subscriber base, the company’s stock price declined. This didn’t stop Netflix from announcing they would soon be launching their movie rental service in Western Europe.

We also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including a third “Hobbit” movie, what caused Warner Bros. to sue Amazon users and why the FCC fined Comcast.

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Showbiz Sandbox 119: Thompson On Toronto and Telluride

September 19, 2011

The Toronto International Film Festival has become a mandatory stop for studios opening awards contenders in the fall. The last four best picture winners at the Academy Awards, including The King’s Speech, all played in Toronto. Along with the smaller, cozier Telluride Film Festival, Toronto is where some films first start picking up awards buzz. Anne Thompson, editor of IndieWire’s Thompson on Hollywood, just returned from both festivals and provides a few details to those of us who weren’t lucky enough to go.

The Emmy Awards were held on Sunday evening and once again “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” won top honors. Though many of the award winners were predictable, there were still a few surprises, such as Melissa McCarthy from the sitcom “Mike & Molly” walking off with lead actress in a comedy. The Emmy telecast itself however was a bit of a “train wreck”.

Netflix continued to top headlines this past week after their stock price plunged 19 percent upon lowering their subscriber projections. Apparently their higher prices have scared off potential customers and caused a few to abandon the video rental service. Now Netflix has announced they will split their business in two, renaming the DVD-by-mail service Qwikster.

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