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 273: Bringing The ‘Blurred Lines’ Verdict Into Focus

March 16, 2015

A federal jury decided last week that the hit song “Blurred Lines” was improperly derived from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 classic “Got to Give It Up” and ordered songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million for copyright infringement. Though the verdict was a surprise, Eriq Gardner, a senior editor for The Hollywood Reporter, tells us it may not have the wide ranging implications for the music industry everyone now predicts.

Gardner explains some of the legal positions taken by both sides in the case. Usually for a copyright lawsuit to be successful the melody, harmony or lyrics must be infringed upon, though in this instance it was extended to include the style and “vibe” of the work. What will this mean for songwriters in the future?

Meanwhile, the MPAA published their verdict on last year’s box office figures. The good news is the organization’s annual report looks at the entire world, and not just the U.S. The bad news, at least according to some, is that box office receipts only increased 1% during what was a record breaking year in Asia.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including Sony’s plans for a Ghostbuster’s universe, the worldwide premiere of next season’s “Game of Thrones” and Disney announces a sequel to “Frozen”.

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Showbiz Sandbox 271: A Brief History of Net Neutrality

March 2, 2015

Last week the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that will regulate broadband Internet service and enforce net neutrality. Just in case you’re still trying to decipher the net neutrality news, Jonathan Strickland, a senior writer for How Stuff Works, explains exactly what it is how the issue has evolved over time, starting in the 19th-century with laws designed to govern railroads.

Another hot topic in Hollywood lately has been the executive shuffle taking place at several studios. Former Fox exec Tom Rothman will take over for the recently departed Amy Pascal as head honcho of Sony Pictures, while Paramount begins its own search for a new leader after the departure of Adam Goodman.

Surely all of these moguls would be quick to assure you that Will Smith is indeed a movie star despite a few recent box office duds, yet as his latest film hits theaters news stories abound asking whether the actor can still open a movie.

Of course, we also cover the week’s top entertainment news stories including the Blade Runner sequel moves forward, Pee Wee Herman brings his playhouse to Netflix and Disney reboots Ducktales.

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

December 31, 2012

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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Showbiz Sandbox 109: Making Grammar Fun (And F*cking Funny)

June 27, 2011

When Chris Baker isn’t working on Madison Avenue for a big advertising firm, he is creating some of the world’s most exclusive websites… literarily.  TheWorldsMostExclusiveWebsite.com only lets verified celebrities and big wigs past the home page. His website M. Night School is crowd-sourcing enough funds to send director M. Night Shyamalan back to film school. Baker joins us to discuss his latest effort, “The Elements of F*cking Style“, a book that, unlike the one it parodies, employs sex, drugs and swearing to help teach readers proper English grammar.

After this past weekend, Baker may want to send Pixar back to film school. “Cars 2”, the company’s highly anticipated sequel to their blockbuster “Cars”, was given a drubbing by critics. However, critical acclaim may not matter for a film that earns $2 billion a year in merchandising.

At least nobody’s forcing you to see “Cars 2”. That might not be an option in China where the government is “suggesting” that everyone see “Beginning of the Great Revival,” a propaganda film disguised as a historical epic detailing the founding of China’s Communist Party.

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Showbiz Sandbox 102: Why Music Videos Matter (Again)

May 9, 2011

Music videos rose to prominence in the 1980s to become on of the most important promotional vehicles for new music. As fans grew tired of watching their favorite musicians lip sync their way through elaborate videos MTV and the like stopped showing them. However, with the advent of inexpensive production equipment and the ability to reach a massive global audience via the Internet, musicians have begun churning out a new crop of innovative, and at times interactive, music videos, revitalizing an art form once written off as extinct.

In other music news, Warner Music Group was finally auctioned off for $3.3 billion. Now there is talk that the record labels new owner might scoop up EMI making Warner Music Group even larger than it is already. Meanwhile, in an attempt to reverse declining box office, concert promoters are trying to win audiences back with cheaper ticket prices and high-end acts.

Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes, two of the Internet’s most popular movie sites, were sold to Warner Bros. We debate whether the move will influence some of the reviews and recommendations the websites have become known for.

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Showbiz Sandbox 99: How To Fix Hollywood’s Obsolete Residual Payments System

April 11, 2011

Labor and contract negotiations are a constant concern in Hollywood. Entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel is a contributor to The Hollywood Reporter and has written a book about the industry’s labor disputes,  “Hollywood on Strike!: An Industry at War in the Internet Age“. The book grew out of his coverage of the labor unrest that began with the 100 day Writers Guild strike leading to turmoil in all union negotiations over the next two years. Handel proposes a new formula for residuals that could help avoid future strikes.

Blockbuster, the beleaguered video chain which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, was auctioned off to Dish Networks.  How the acquisition will benefit the satellite television provider remains to be seen.

The Grammy Awards are getting trimmed down as they cut more than 30 categories and combine a number of others.  Music industry professionals are split over whether the changes will help the awards show.

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Showbiz Sandbox 48: The Justin Bieber Swagger

April 5, 2010

Yet another 3D film release topped the box office this weekend, sort of.  “Clash of the Titans” was actually shot traditionally and had 3D added to it during post-production.  Many film critics and industry insiders are faulting the film’s 3D work, which was performed in only eight weeks.  Neil Feldman, the president and CEO of In-Three, a company that specializes in dimensionalizing 2D films, joins us during our Inside Baseball segment to discuss the difference between good 3D conversions and bad 3D conversions.  For Feldman, it’s all about quality, which he believes Warner Bros. was not concerned with on “Clash”.

Apparently, Warner Bros. also wasn’t concerned with producing a sequel of “The Hangover” when they set out to make the surprise comedy hit.  The studio neglected to put option clauses in the lead actor’s contracts so they are having to pay each of them $5 million to appear in the sequel.  The same may have been true for Twentieth Century Fox and “Independence Day”.  There are now rumors however that the studio has locked Will Smith in for two sequels to the blockbuster 1996 action film.  Unfortunately they are just that… rumors.

Justin Bieber continues to tear up the music charts.  His new album “My World 2.0” debuted in the number one spot and his first album is still at number five.  Read more

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