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 341: AT&T Deal For Time Warner Makes Vertical Integration Trendy Again

October 24, 2016

Last weekend, in a sudden and unexpected deal, telecommunications giant AT&T agreed to buy the media conglomerate Time Warner for $85 billion. As its current offerings become more commoditized AT&T is looking to add content to its portfolio through picking up Time Warner, a company that counts among its assets networks such as HBO and CNN, not to mention Warner Bros. Pictures. However, this marriage is far from certain will surely come under the scrutiny of antitrust regulators.

As awards season gets underway, studios have begun releasing some of their high profile title in hopes of going after Oscar glory. Historically, that meant opening arty films in a limited number of cinemas before going wide after gaining word of mouth. We explain why that’s happening less often these days.

Meanwhile, the Wanda Group is inviting all of Hollywood, and frankly anyone producing film and TV, to its new movie studios in Qingdao, China. They are offering a 40% incentive in hopes of luring productions to the multi-billion dollar facilities, but will anyone take them up on it?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Bob Dylan might not be interested in commenting on his recent Nobel Prize award, why the “Deadpool” sequel lost its director and Garth Brooks signs an exclusive deal to stream his music on Amazon’s new service.

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Showbiz Sandbox 325: Keeping Track of Who’s In Charge at Hollywood Studios

June 20, 2016

It would seem keeping one’s job as a senior executive at a major Hollywood movie studio has become much harder of late. Last year both Paramount and Sony Pictures replaced their studio heads. Now the executive shuffles at Sony and Fox, as well as the turmoil at Viacom, have our heads spinning. We’ll be joined by Anne Thompson of Indiewire who explains why Hollywood is in turnaround.

We also breakdown the past week’s worldwide box office, where a little fish swam a long way. Apparently audiences hadn’t forgotten the forgetful character from “Finding Nemo” and thus turned the Pixar movie “Finding Dory” into a box office smash.

Amazon plans to expand its streaming music service, but will it be worth listening to? Meanwhile, CBS won a potentially significant lawsuit when it argued successfully that a remastered album can in fact be considered a brand new work in terms of copyright.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Tony Awards telecast get a ratings bump, Disney opens a theme park in Shanghai and ESPN devotes itself to soccer (or football, depending where you live).

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Showbiz Sandbox 321: New Power Players Emerge In Cannes

May 16, 2016

The Cannes Film Festival has become one of the most important annual cinema events because it programs a diverse array of movies from all over the world. We’ll head to the French Riviera for this year’s festival to tell you which of the hundreds of films are generating buzz and argue over the elements necessary for the successful exportation of European films.

Meanwhile the Marché du Film, or Cannes Film Market, takes place alongside the festival each year. New industry players such as Amazon Studios and other streaming companies have made some bold moves during Cannes, stealing the thunder from veteran power brokers.

Speaking of streaming companies, Amazon is opening its video platform to users, allowing them to upload content and make money off ads, just like they do on YouTube. And YouTube is dreaming of selling its many customers a skinny bundle of TV channels.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Ukrainian winner of the Eurovision song contest, Sean Penn gets an apology from Tyler Perry and Disney sets a historic box office milestone.

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Showbiz Sandbox 320: Is Comcast the New Disney?

May 2, 2016

Comcast announced last week that it would acquire Dreamworks Animation for $3.8 billion, taking another step toward transforming themselves from a cable giant into a full fledged media conglomerate. Meg James, a corporate media reporter for the Los Angeles Times, join us to discuss how, though the deal may not have been anticipated, it makes a lot of sense for both companies.

The purchase is the most recent in a string of acquisitions that have closely mirrored the strategy Disney has executed over the past decade as they gobbled up companies such as Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. Comcast has proven quite adept at turning undervalued assets such as NBCUniversal and Universal Studios theme parks into profitable entities.

Meanwhile, as the Tony Awards season officially kicks off, Broadway is suffering from what is being referred to as The Hamilton Effect. This is a condition in which you open a musical that blends hip-hop and history in a way that not only makes the show a cultural phenomenon, but the inevitable winner of this year’s much coveted Best Musical Tony.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Daytime Emmy winners, why Fox is pulling out of this year’s Comic-Con convention and how French law enforcement is preparing for the Cannes Film Festival.

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Showbiz Sandbox 315: China Becomes A Global Movie Superpower

March 14, 2016

In recent years, Chinese-owned companies have become the film industry’s biggest power players by scooping up production companies and cinema chains. The latest example came when AMC Theatres, owned by China’s richest man Wang Jianlin, announced it will acquire Carmike Cinemas to become the world’s largest motion picture exhibitor.

It’s easy to see why the Chinese are so hot on the cinema business given that their box office surpassed that of North America during the month of February for the second time ever. Yet if you were to ask some financial analysts, Hollywood Hollywood is starting to look like the video game industry before it imploded; bigger budgets, fewer winners and more losers. Is Hollywood about to shrivel up like Pac-Man?

Then there are those like Sean Parker, one of the founders of Napster and Facebook, who are trying to convince Hollywood that it’s time to start making big movies available in consumer’s homes the same day they hit theaters. Is there any business model in which that could actually work?

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the authors nominated for this year’s prestigious Man Booker Prize, music sales in France plummet and Kevin Spacey won’t be heading up Relativity Media after all.

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Showbiz Sandbox 309: Getting Shutout at Sundance

January 26, 2016

Anyone who is anyone in the indie film world is presently in Park City, Utah attending this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Of course, it’s impossible to see all the nearly 200 films making their debut at Sundance. As we explain, seeing some of the hottest titles at the festival requires hours of waiting in line for screenings that are often over capacity, thus leaving dozens out in the cold. Literally and figuratively.

Some of the biggest headlines at this year’s Sundance were made by Amazon and Netflix. Though both distributors have previously had a presence at Sundance, this year they went on a buying spree, shelling out big bucks to snap up a number of buzzworthy films. The industry now is watching closely how the distribution of these acquisitions is handled and whether the companies are capable of turning them into financial successes.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the lack of diversity for this year’s Oscar nominations continues to boil over. With talk of boycotts and accusations of racial bias, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some drastic steps it plans on taking to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, this only caused the debate to become even more boisterous.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the Grammy Awards will go live, Bette Midler will be going to Broadway and actress Gillian Anderson balks at being paid half of what David Duchovny makes for the “X-Files” reunion.

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Showbiz Sandbox 300: What is GamerGate and Why Should You Care?

November 3, 2015

South by Southwest (SXSW) set the tech world and media outlets aflame when they recently canceled two panel discussions on harassment in the gaming community scheduled for their 2016 conference. Organizers quickly reversed their decision realizing it sent the unintended message that the of the annual music, film and interactive festival not only tolerates online harassment but condones it.

SXSW officials claimed they were trying to protect attendees from violence threatening the panels from a group aligning themselves with GamerGate, an angry and misogynistic movement focused on sexism and progressivism in video game culture. Trying to define GamerGate is difficult since it has evolved from a debate raging through social media hashtags to real world death threats against prominent women in the video game industry. We’ll try to unravel the meaning of GamerGate and discuss whether SXSW can fully recover from the controversy it stirred up.

Meanwhile, tickets to hot franchise properties are getting hard to come by. When tickets for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” went on sale recently, web ticketing companies were crippled by demand. The same was true when tickets for the London West End production of “Harry Potter And The Cursed Child” which promptly sold out a year’s worth of performances.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the return of “Gilmore Girls”, Internet music service Pandora settles a copyright dispute to the tune of $90 million and a new Star Trek television series is headed straight to online streaming.

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Showbiz Sandbox 295: Thompson Keeps Tabs On Telluride and Toronto

September 21, 2015

Two of the world’s most prominent film festivals are held each September in Telluride and Toronto and, without fail, you’ll find Anne Thompson, Indiewire’s editor-at-large, dashing off to both of them. Thompson gives us a feel for what both festivals were like this year, which films created the most awards buzz and which she thinks audiences should be looking forward to.

Thompson also joins us to discuss this year’s Emmy winners. The premium cable network HBO proved it is still at the top of its game, fending off the stiff competition of hot new shows being produced by upstart streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. The network wept away the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Limited Series categories, winning 14 awards in all.

Meanwhile, in case that seems destined to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must take into account the possibility of fair use before sending a takedown notice. Rather than force possible infringers to mount what is known as an affirmative defense, the court is placing the burden on copyright holders to consider whether a work should be considered fair use.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including the new over-the-top and mobile streaming services being offered by the BBC and Epix, one of the creators of Batman will finally get the credit he has long deserved (though maybe not the money) and Denzel Washington will produce ten August Wilson plays for HBO.

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Showbiz Sandbox 292: There Is Simply Too Much Television

August 31, 2015

Television network executives have begun publicly acknowledging a predicament their audiences recognized some time ago; there is simply too much television. In the midst of what has been dubbed a “golden age” of television, viewers are becoming reluctant to sign up for yet another new or existing series.

In fact, John Landgraf, the head of FX Networks, recently told the Television Critics Association that the glut of TV content means it has become more difficult to “cut through the clutter and create real buzz” when producing a show. With so much programming available, great shows can often go unnoticed or take longer to find an audience.

Then there are countries in which content is being suppressed. In Russia a politically active Ukrainian filmmaker was recently handed a 20 year prison sentence drawing international criticism that the charges were fabricated. Bangladesh meanwhile has banned a banned a new movie because it shed light on the country’s billion dollar garment industry, which is well known for exploiting its workers.

Of course we also cover the week’s top entertainment news including why Warner Bros. is headed to China, Spongebob Squarepants is headed to Broadway and how Netflix is about to lose more than 1000 movie titles.

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