Showbiz Sandbox 310: Diversity Makes A Comeback At Sundance

February 2, 2016

This year’s Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend in historic fashion by awarding the dramatic competition grand jury and audience prizes to “The Birth of a Nation”, a historical biopic a Virginian slave revolt. The film made headlines earlier in the week when Fox Searchlight purchased the film for a record $17.5 million after beating out Netflix in a heated bidding war.

We’ll tell you about all the big Sundance awards and continue the Oscar season slog, in which this year’s front runners are as mixed up as a Republican presidential primary. SAG added to the confusion, making “Spotlight” this week’s hero, after “The Big Short” looked like a winner the week before.

Meanwhile the Federal Communications Commission is about to vote on ending the monopoly of set top boxes for US cable subscribers, a decision that could have big ramifications for everything from what you watch to the stock prices of numerous tech companies, including Apple and Roku.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including Louis CK bypasses television networks and brings his new series directly to viewers, Pope Francis gets ready for his closeup in a feature film and sales of new music were outpaced by catalogue titles over the past year.

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Showbiz Sandbox 307: Can Guild Nominations Forecast Oscar Winners?

January 11, 2016

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 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 231: Could Vince Vaughn Be The Next David Letterman?

April 7, 2014

Late night talk show personality David Letterman surprised everyone last week by announcing that he would be retiring as host of the “Late Show” in 2015. News that Letterman would be exiting on his own terms after 30 years as a late night headliner broke in a thoroughly modern way; first via Twitter, then through the media’s career retrospectives and ultimately with stories about who would make a good replacement. We nominate Vince Vaughn.

In other television news, Time Warner Cable is in a bitter dispute with satellite provider DirecTV. The two companies are butting heads over the broadcast rights for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball games TWC paid more than $8 billion for last year. With negotiations seemingly stalled, more than 30% of the market’s paid television subscribers have been blacked out of each game’s telecast.

Meanwhile, this year’s Broadway season is about to kick off in earnest on the run up to the Tony Awards. Our own Michael Giltz gives us a complete rundown on which productions he’s putting his own figurative money on.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including a trademark dispute over Mickey Mouse, a new contract for the Writers Guild of America and the continuing struggles of Entertainment Weekly.

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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 209: Why Twitter and Facebook Are Watching You Watch TV

October 14, 2013

Facebook and Twitter have entered into a fierce battle to hold sway over the conversations taking place around television shows. The social media giants intend to mine the viewing habits of millions of users for data that might be useful to television networks. Karen Woodward, a leading entertainment industry social media consultant, discusses whether social chatter can lead to higher ratings and more advertising revenue.

Meanwhile, as the end of the year nears everyone is talking about awards season. Thanks to the fall film festival circuit and industry previews, virtually all Oscar hopefuls have already been seen and the handicapping of frontrunners has begun. However, it may take a while to view all entries for Best Foreign Language Film that were submitted by a record 76 countries.

The popular music streaming service Spotify turned five this past week and shared a few figures behind its success. One bit of data revealed that of the 20 million tracks hosted by service, 4 million have never even been streamed… not even once.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the rise of a 16-year-old pop star from New Zealand, “Fifty Shades Of Grey” loses a cast member and the Jonas Brothers cancel their upcoming tour.

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Showbiz Sandbox 198: One Flop Does Not A Studio Break

July 15, 2013

Though the media might like to focus on Hollywood’s failures whenever a big blockbuster tanks, the reality is most movie studios can weather a flop or two. Modern-day entertainment conglomerates include music, merchandising, consumer products and travel divisions of which the movie studio is much smaller part. Disney, for instance, made nine times as much revenue in 2012 on its television media holdings than it did with its movie studio.

Even so, without a pipeline of even modestly successful movies, an entertainment company’s entire operation can eventually suffer. That’s why even though mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer is in a bit of a dry spell lately, (see “The Lone Ranger”) someone in Hollywood will always be willing to bet on his next project.

The past week also saw a seemingly endless supply of news stories concerning the health of celebrities. Placido Domingo was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism, Randy Travis is in serious condition after suffering a stroke, Elton John canceled a tour after emergency surgery for appendicitis and it was all topped by the untimely death of “Glee” star Cory Monteith at age 31.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Meredith Vieira’s return to television, a Twitter storm over “Sharknado” and Joan Rivers’ dispute with the Writers Guild.

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

February 18, 2013

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 176: Hollywood Unchained – 2012 Sets Another Box Office Record

January 7, 2013

Once again Hollywood raked in record earnings at the North American box office in 2012, though this time it wasn’t because of increased ticket prices.  In fact, both revenue and attendance were up nearly 6% during the year as 1.36 billion tickets were sold to set a new annual box office record of $10.8 billion.

Internationally box office receipts were off slightly.  After a string of years with record grosses, Hollywood movies raked in $13.5 billion outside North America.  The new year is looking up as well since nine films pegged as Oscar contenders are all still raking in big grosses.

The music business didn’t have such good news.  Album sales during 2012 declined 4.4% in the United States where Adele spent a second year at the top of the heap.  What’s noteworthy is that digital downloads outpaced physical album sales for the first time according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment headlines including the sale of Al Gore’s cable network, the rising ratings for Big Bang Theory and why YouTube is deleting views for music videos.

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