By Walt Hickey
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The box office was miserable this weekend, with revenue of $110 million to $112 million putting this as the worst Easter in 14 years. This was mainly because next weekend Avengers: Endgame drops, and it’d be nuts to launch any film a week before one of the most anticipated releases of the year comes out. The top grosser of the weekend was some horror counter-programming, The Curse of La Llorona, which could potentially be an attraction for people who want to see a movie, but for some reason have no desire to see a superhero movie. The greatest of all time for counter-programming remains the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise, which opened against I Am Legend, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar.
Through 2026, the global video conferencing market is expected to grow by 8 percent a year every year, mainly because as more employees opt to work from home rather than in the pit of despair known as an open office environment. Developing office video conferencing software that doesn’t suck is now a promising business, with Zoom raising $751 million in an IPO last Wednesday. After opening at $36 per share the company has since risen to $62 per share, a jump that actually prompted the CEO to say "the price is too high.”
HBO had been courting Beyoncé in an attempt to air Homecoming, a behind-the-scenes look at her Coachella performance. Then, Netflix made a counteroffer so large that HBO — which has spent decades cultivating a reputation as a distributor with staggering coffers — balked and had to pull out. We now have that number: Variety reports Netflix inked a $60 million deal with Beyoncé for three projects, meaning that Homecoming sold for $20 million. It’s good to be the queen.
The Food and Drug Administration is doing a large deregulation push, revoking the standards for a number of food requirements. One such standard in the process of being revoked: in order to qualify as “cherry pie,” a treat must be 25 percent cherries by weight and no more than 15 percent of those cherries can be blemished. This is a huge win for people who make really crappy pies and also government deregulation. Next up? French dressing, which has a mayonnaise threshold that is annoying for vegan dressing manufacturers.
Hearing aids, long a niche industry selling a product that most people who need don’t actually want, is primed for the spotlight. In 1994, there were 70 companies worldwide making hearing aids, and today there are five, one of which — Starkey — is American. They sold $800 million in hearing aids last year, but one of their biggest opportunities will be integrating new tech into the devices. Livio AI is a device that uses sensors to filter noise, track health metrics, monitor cognitive activity, and most significantly can do instantaneous translation of 27 languages. It costs $2,500 to $3,000, but in the next few years Starkey wants to take AI hearing aids mainstream. Within four months of introduction it was 50 percent of Starkey’s sales and the projection for 2019 is 80 percent.
Profanity has become a disappointingly common event during the L.A. Board of Supervisors. In 2013, more than 1.8 million words were said during the meetings and only three were redacted in the transcripts as expletives. Since last fall, though, things have begun to get out of hands. This year expletives were dropped more than 170 times, and in the first two weeks of the month ethnic slurs or profanities were dropped 70 times. In April 2019, out of every 10,000 words 4.7 were expletives. This marks the first time the rate’s gone above about two per 10,000.
In 2018, we collectively put out 37.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide. There’s a pervasive idea that scrubbers could one day help pull some of that out of the atmosphere, but the reality is there’s nowhere near the capacity to pull that off. A Global Thermostat unit can capture 4,000 tons annually, and to offset emissions would take 9 million units. Climeworks can make 100 to 150 CO2 capture devices per year. Carbon Engineering, which is planning bigger projects, still says it would take 5,000 plants to offset U.S. emissions and it’d cost $3 trillion. So maybe we stick with Plan A, which is “reduce emissions.”
According to the Writer’s Guild, 92 percent of their membership have fired their agents, just as the union demanded as their conflict with the largest talent agencies has escalated. The WGA is playing hardball with their reps because they perceive a conflict of interest on behalf of talent agents who retain producing interest in projects they are negotiating for their writers. The largest agencies — CAA, WME, UTA and ICM — won’t budge on packaging.
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