Numlock News: April 29, 2020 • Wagyu, Trolls, Animal Crossing

By Walt Hickey

Trolling

Trolls World Tour has become, on par with expectations, by far the most interesting film of 2020. Three weeks after Universal Pictures released it directly to video on demand, the studio says that it’s racked up about 5 million $19.99 rentals in the United States and Canada. Generally, a studio gets 50 percent of box office sales, but with VOD they retain about 80 percent of the fee: with the $95 million haul from Trolls World Tour’s video release that means about $77 million in revenue for Universal, which is a take on par with a $154 million theatrical run. It still hasn’t recovered its $90 million production budget, so VOD is far from the silver bullet Hollywood may have hoped it would be, but the braggadocious nature of Universal’s victory lap that Trolls wasn’t a total loss has infuriated the theaters they circumvented: later Tuesday, AMC Theatres announced they henceforth will refuse to play Universal films.

Erich Schwartzel, The Wall Street Journal, and Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter

Art

An art collective purchased a $30,000 Damien Hirst print of 88 multicolored spots. In a robust act of merchandising, they’ve cut out all of the 88 dots from the work and put each of them up for sale at $480 each. They’re also selling the original print — which now is just 88 holes and the signature of artist Damien Hirst — at auction with an opening bid of $126,500. The collective — MSCHF — last year burst onto the scene by auctioning a computer they had infected with six malicious viruses for $1.3 million.

Taylor Dafoe, Artnet News

Wills

In 1837, England decided that all wills have to be signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom can be beneficiaries and, based on present-day understanding, neither of whom can be appearing via teleconference. The original act was written owing to widespread illiteracy and as a protection against fraud, but in the modern era certainly makes it difficult to get ink on paper when it means you have to invite a bunch of strangers into your quarantine. Anyway, if you’re working on a cozy mystery right now, feel free to take this onerous and oddly specific requirement and let it ride as a critical plot device.

Benjamin Mueller, The New York Times

Speechless

The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced two enormous decisions yesterday, the first of which was that they would ease eligibility requirements for Oscar nominations — movies needn’t screen for a week in Los Angeles, and films that had been scheduled for theatrical release but yanked can be made available to Academy members for voting — and the second of which was killing one of the two Oscars given for sound. The first adjustment is temporary — and technically good news for Trolls World Tour — but the second is quite permanent, folding Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing into a sole Best Sound and bringing the total number of Oscars presented to 23, down from 24. The sound branch is apparently cool with it, but we’ll be the judges of that if the board members who voted for the change start sounding real crummy.

Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

Bank of Nook

In what is easily one of the most significant economic policy moves of 2020, the Bank of Nook in Nintendo Switch video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons has slashed interest rates, down from 0.5 percent to 0.05 percent. The unprecedented action has worldwide implications in Animal Crossing, a game where you collect bugs and raw materials until you feel whole on the inside. The total interest on savings is capped at 9,999 bells, which are currently trading at the exchange rate of 1.9 million bells per $1 USD. One reason for the shift is that players had been depositing enormous sums into the Bank of Nook, then tweaking their Switch’s internal clock to time travel and reap decades of compound interest. In the international finance community, attempting to pull off Fry’s Gambit is considered poor form.

Leo Lewis and Robin Wigglesworth, The Financial Times

Rebound

The reopening of a flagship Hermes store in Guangzhou on April 11 hauled in a reported $2.7 million in sales on that day alone, the record for a single boutique store in China. The success of the shop has been encouraging for luxury brands of all stripes, who took a beating when the world shut down and were keeping their manicured fingers crossed for a robust rebound. It would appear they have it, at least in China as that country re-opens: last year China was responsible for roughly 90 percent of the growth seen in the global luxury market. Both Kering — owner of such brands as Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Balenciaga — as well as LVMH, which owns Louis Vuitton, each saw revenue slip 15 percent in the first three months of the year.

Rintaro Hosokawa and Alex Fang, Nikkei Asian Review

Beef

Snake River Farms in Idaho donated prized Wagyu steaks to the Francisco-Marin Food Bank, as well as several other food distribution services in the Bay Area. With restaurants closed up, their main customers are not buying, so the farm donated the beef that will be divided into 35,000 steaks and was estimated to be worth $2 million. It’ll go to aid families in the San Francisco area, with 50,000 households asking for food assistance.

Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle

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