Showbiz Sandbox 348: Hollywood Studios Get Serious About Shortening Theatrical Windows

December 19, 2016

Studios have been itching to shorten the theatrical release window for their movies since the moment they learned how much money they could make on home video. Of course, cinema owners aren’t too keen on the idea and refuse to book films that can be viewed at home less than three months after they hit theaters. With reports that Apple is talking to Hollywood in hopes of getting early access to movies for iTunes, have the stakes been raised?

Oscar season is heating up as the guilds begin weighing in. First up was the Screen Actors Guild who announced the nominees for their annual awards helping confirm a few front runners. When it comes to foreign language features, the Academy narrowed the list of eligible contenders down to nine, leaving out a few of this year’s favorites.

Meanwhile the Library of Congress announced a selection of 25 titles to enter the National Film Registry including silent films starring Buster Keaton, “The Princess Bride”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Rushmore”.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive shakeup at Warner Bros. Pictures, Julia Roberts comes to television and Amazon goes global with its video streaming service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 346: Critics Are Mixed Up About This Year’s Best Movies

December 5, 2016

With 2016 coming to an end movie critics have begun announcing their picks for the year’s noteworthy releases. As in recent years, critics groups from New York to Los Angeles differ slightly on what the top movie should be. The New York critics group went with the musical “La La Land”, while The L.A. group chose the drama “Moonlight”. To really confuse things the National Board of Review selected “Manchester by the Sea”. What this breadth of selections means is there were plenty of great films to see this year.

Where you see these movies, on the other hand, continues to be a debate, at least for the heads of movie studios. Kevin Tsujihara, the head of Warner Bros., made it known his company would like to release films into the home market soon after their release in movie theaters. He says the studio is having “constructive conversations” with a few cinema operators to make this a reality, but what that really means is anybody’s guess.

There seems to be no confusion however over whether TV networks want to attend the winter press gathering of the Television Critics Association; they don’t. These annual events allow networks to promote new shows while giving journalists a chance to grill the creatives and executive behind them. It looks as if many networks are skipping out on this January’s press tour as the top executives from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declining their invites.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including DirecTV’s plans to go over the top, Netflix allows users to download movies for offline viewing and the Bee Gees get a new record deal.

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Showbiz Sandbox 342: Box Office Growth in China Begins to Fizzle

October 31, 2016

Hollywood has been talking up China’s explosive box office growth for years and the country is forecast to surpass North America as the largest movie market in the world as early as next year. However, the growth in China is slowing with ticket sales down 10% this year from last year’s figures. Ryan Faughnder, a staff writer with the Los Angeles Times, stops by to explain some of the reasons for the decline and what it means for major studios.

Faughnder also gives us the lowdown on how some studios, specifically Lionsgate, are turning to YouTube stars in search of their next big hit. Warner Bros. and Disney have similar efforts underway, though none have found the secret to success in transforming online talent into mainstream stars.

Meanwhile politicians and investment analysts have publicly expressed their concern over AT&T’s acquisition of TimeWarner. Some have gone so far as to say the deal can lead to “a whole bunch of different horribles for consumers”. For their part, AT&T is trying to assuage fears by moving head with its virtual cable plan.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why the creator of “Mad Men” signed with Amazon for his next series, why viewership of two popular sports has decreased significantly and how the pop group ABBA is reuniting for a live performance… sort of.

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Showbiz Sandbox 334: Music Streaming Wars Heat Up Over Exclusive Releases

September 6, 2016

The competition between Apple Music and Spotify for subscribers has been cutthroat over the past year. Now comes word that Spotify may be retaliating against artists working with Apple. We’ll take a look at how exclusive new releases have raised the stakes in the ongoing battle for streaming music supremacy.

We also explain why it’s time everyone stopped discussing how abysmal North American summer box office was. After all, 2016 box office and attendance is actually up over the previous year, which had record earnings.

And in what might be a case of the pot calling the kettle black, China is questioning whether Universal’s acquisition of DreamWorks Animation breaks its antitrust regulation.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including how Jackie Chan will be awarded an honorary Oscar, Frank Ocean makes history by topping the Billboard charts with a self-released album and Baz Lurmann’s “Moulin Rouge” is being turned into a musical.

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

August 16, 2016

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 318: The CinemaCon and Coachella Experience Is Priceless

April 18, 2016

Movie theater operators from around the world gathered at CinemaCon in Las Vegas last week to see what Hollywood studios have to offer over the next 12 months; from big budget tentpole releases to potential awards contenders. The loudest buzz at this year’s event was caused by The Screening Room, a company that hopes to bring current movie releases into the home, day-and-date with cinemas. Following a year of record theatrical box office grosses, studios, exhibitors and filmmakers alike spoke out en masse against such an idea.

Meanwhile, the first weekend of this year’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival took place over the weekend and we’ll fill you in on some of the highlights and musical acts as we debate whether big festivals have become too pricey and elitist.

During Inside Baseball, we’ll tackle the growing controversy over acting workshops; the “educational” courses where actors get pointers on how to audition. After a top casting director lost their job over the practice, there is a sense that such workshops feel like scams where struggling actors are conned into paying to audition in front of industry players.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the executive disarray at Disney, how Twitter will stream NFL games next season and why the Golden Globes are tweaking their rules.

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Showbiz Sandbox 316: Indiana Jones and the Colonoscopy

March 21, 2016

Last week Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg announced they are grabbing a whip and fedora and planning one more adventure for Indiana Jones with its original director and star. They haven’t set a start date for shooting, don’t seem to have a script or even a setting or general idea for the movie yet, at least not one they’re sharing. But naturally they have a release date. The next Indiana Jones will be coming to a theater near you on July 19, 2019.

If it were up to the Screening Room, you’ll be able to watch the latest Indiana Jones installment from the comfort of your own home. Everyone is weighing in on the new company that wants to make blockbuster movies available in your home the same day they hit theaters.

Meanwhile, CBS is turning off their radios. The broadcaster says they are looking to offload their fabled radio group despite it being a stable long-term business. CBS believes radio doesn’t have sexy growth potential so they apparently wants out.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including an explanation of television stacking rights, Mariah Carey gets her own reality series and China cracks down on box office fraud.

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Showbiz Sandbox 313: Is Kanye West Crazy Like A Fox, or Just Crazy?

February 22, 2016

Kanye West is making headlines for exhibiting manic behavior around the upcoming release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo”. Is it erratic behavior or a canny promotional tactic? And is West’s album actually finished, or are the many changes he’s making before its official release all part of an intentional, yet public, artistic process.

In more serious news, music heavyweights are beginning to speak out about the court battle between artist Kesha and music producer Dr. Luke. The musician is attempting to break free of a record contract which ties her to a man Kesha says “sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally” abused her for years.

Meanwhile, we’re going to look at a worldwide box office phenomenon that has set records in the United States and around the world. Not “Deadpool”, but rather China’s “The Mermaid,” which had the highest per screen average of any movie in North America this past week.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new owner of movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Amazon’s plans to distribute Woody Allen’s next movie and new rules for the Eurovision song contest.

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

October 19, 2015

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 296: Entertainment Industry Numbers Are Often A Comedy of Errors

September 28, 2015

It is said numbers don’t lie, however in the entertainment business they don’t always tell the truth either. When it comes to box office grosses, television ratings, home video earnings and book sales, numbers can often present misleading or incomplete information which paint an unrealistic, or at times purposefully skewed, financial picture.

Netflix, for instance, released data detailing what they claim is the episode when their customers get hooked on a television series. However, the “hook study” performed by the subscription video streaming service was limited in scope and may simply be an example of how good Netflix is at spinning its numbers into great PR opportunities.

Meanwhile, like every other area of the entertainment industry, the book world has been rocked by the digital revolution. But publishers believe the business is leveling out based on sales figures which leave out large segments of the market. None of this explains why e-books cost more than paperbacks though.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Amy Schumer’s big book advance, a lawsuit over the movie “Goodfellas”, which Warner Bros. says was a huge flop, and the Harry Potter origin story will become a two part theatrical production on London’s West End.

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