Numlock News: August 23, 2021 • Pumpkin Spice, Kmart, Baseball Cards

By Walt Hickey

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Box Office

Rough weekend for new films at the box office as Free Guy held on to the number one spot for a second consecutive week. It hauled in another $18.8 million and declined only 34 percent week over week, an outstanding hold in a summer where second week receipts have fallen 60 percent fairly often. In second place was a gritty crime drama where a grizzled vet cop teams up with a crack team that’s got nothing left to lose and takes on corruption in a fetid city besieged by graft and thievery, with PAW Patrol: The Movie making $13 million. Interestingly, among ticket buyers 41 percent were parents and 47 percent were kids, so by my math 12 percent owe us some kind of explanation.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Topps

Topps, the long-standing manufacturer of official Major League Baseball trading cards, has been dumped by the league and player’s association in favor of new rival—Fanatics. This is big business: the MLB Player’s Association counted Topps as the single largest licensee, with the trading card company paying them $20.4 million in 2020, up $1.67 million from 2019. Their contract with Topps runs through 2025, and with the category heating up significantly, the league and union were able to reportedly get more than 10 times as much money from Fanatics, which hawks all kinds of sports memorabilia. It’s also brutal for Topps, which loses its flagship sport and now has its largest deal being soccer.

Dan Hajducky, ESPN

The Spice Must Flow

Prepare yourself: pumpkin spice season is upon us. The seasonal flavor, pumped into coffees the world over starting sometime in the Fall-ish, has been making a welcome entrance into August. Last year Starbucks had the autumnal audacity to launch its flight of pumpkin spice beverages on August 25, and this year Dunkin’ rolled out the fall menu last week. While the majority-agreed ideal time for a PSL, according to a new poll, is sometime from mid-September through late November, a bold contingent of allspice-addled, nutmeg-mad, clove-loving, cinnamon-huffing, ginger fanatics crave that sweet nectar in the sacred days of August. In the 2021 edition of the poll, 25 percent said late August was just the right time to have pumpkin spice on the menu, which is up 6 points from the same poll last year, when 19 percent said as much.

Alyssa Meyers, Morning Consult

Palmer amaranth

Palmer amaranth is a hardy, durable weed that’s causing consternation to farmers across the country as it has quickly developed resistances to the most fearsome weedkillers on the market today. When Monsanto rolled out Roundup Ready soybeans in 1996 — seeds designed to resist Roundup, which could be applied liberally and would wipe out anything else on the field — it was a huge hit. By 2011, fully 94 percent of all soybean acres in the country contained seeds engineered to resist herbicide, and as a result the use of glyphosate rose 30-fold. Palmer amaranth has adapted, though, and the weapons are weakening. It can be found in 39 states and, left unchecked, Palmer amaranth can lower soybean yields 80 percent and corn yields 90 percent.

H. Claire Brown, The New York Times

Kmart

In 2005, retailer Kmart had 2,085 locations. Today, it’s got 17. The last time a new Kmart opened was 2002, and since then it’s just been closures all over the place. The store didn’t expand out into the suburbs quick enough, and as a result it has left an indelible mark on the commercial real estate markets where it used to exist. Given that the average Kmart was 84,000 square feet, some 230 million square feet of commercial real estate just from deceased Kmarts alone has flooded the market. While the preference is to lease it to another large retailer, Kmarts have become bowling alleys, megachurches, pharmaceutical laboratories, call centers and pot farms.

Kevin Williams, The New York Times

Colorado

With the recent declaration of an official water shortage in much of the lower Colorado River basin, the spotlight is now on the river that provides most of the water for parched parts of the southwest. The Colorado River’s water is divvied up significantly, with the upper basin — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — getting 7.5 million acre-feet of water per year, the lower basin — California, Arizona and Nevada — getting another 7.5 million acre-feet, and Mexico getting 1.5 million acre-feet. Those were negotiated based on the understanding that the river averaged 16.4 million acre-feet per year; however, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation data shows that the average flow from 1906 to 2019 was under 14.8 million acre-feet. In the two previous decades the average has been just 12.3 million acre-feet per year.

Drew Kann, Renée Rigdon and Daniel Wolf, CNN

Widow

Disney is attempting to pull the high-stakes legal fight with Black Widow star Scarlett Johannsson out of the courts and into arbitration, and their most recent filing gives some new context to just how much money the film ended up making off of digital downloads. According to the filing as of August 15, Black Widow made $367 million in box office receipts worldwide, and over $125 million in streaming and digital downloads. It’s still unclear if that latter number is just eating into box office, or if it’ll actually take a huge chunk out of the eventual full VOD and Blu-Ray release money.

Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter

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