By Walt Hickey
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An arbitrator has handed down an eye-popping $178,695,779 award to the stars and producers of the television show Bones. The decision concludes that Fox executives lied and committed fraud related to the famous “Hollywood accounting,” which is the glamorous and ritzy way the showbiz industry pronounces “cheating your labor out of money.” The decision accounts for 0.6 percent of 21st Century Fox’s net worth and includes $128 million in punitive damages. During its first seven seasons, Bones made a half billion a dollars, but was calculated to be (on paper) a net money loser. Part of this was giving a sweetheart deal to Hulu, which is itself partially a subsidiary of Fox.
Fortnite is in the mid-game and is in a rapidly closing eye of a storm when it comes to revenue. While the game has been huge for electronic retailers like Best Buy, which enjoyed a bump thanks to players buying up accessories. A report last week found that Fortnite’s revenue is down 48 percent month-over-month in January, in many ways thanks to new competition like Apex Legends from EA. What does this mean for you? Well, if you’ve made it this far without learning anything about Fortnite, you’re good. You don’t have to. You have probably outlasted the Fortnite zeitgeist phase. It remains a phenomenon but is a diminishing one that, worst case for you, will mean a bunch of weird dances at weddings in like ten years. I know, I don’t get it either. Congratulations to us.
Big changes are potentially happening in Indiana, where providers of loans that critics call “predatory” and "criminal” were the target of new legislation that would cut back on exorbitant rates. As it stands now, an interest rate above 72 percent in Indiana is felony loan sharking. A law that would cap payday loans at annualized percentage rates of 36 percent was introduced and backed by over 60 consumer advocacy groups. Well, that law went down in flames. Instead, the Indiana Senate voted 26-23 in favor of Senate Bill 613, which will allow annual percentage rates up to 99 percent, and for loans $605 to $1,500, APR as high as 192 percent. Great job, everybody.
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Smithsonian Foot Traffic
A painting of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley has given a major boost in foot traffic to the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. In 2018 the museum notched 2.3 million visitors, a million more than in 2017. The portraits — one of the president, the other of the former first lady by Amy Sherald — were unveiled in February 2018. Side note, that’s my favorite museum in all of D.C., and it also boasts all four of Katharine Hepburn’s Oscars.
Great job, everyone: the U.S. produced 9.41 billion eggs in January, the second largest total ever, just 0.3 percent shy of the all-time high set back in December. Of those, 8.2 billion were for table consumption and 1.2 billion were made to make more chickens, which I can’t emphasize this enough, is a crucial part of our nation’s plans to make even more eggs. Americans will eat a projected 279.2 eggs per person in 2019, the highest since 1973. In 1945 Americans ate an average of 404.6 eggs, which seems far too high, but I believe in us.
The latest forecast puts Avengers: Endgame with a $282 million estimated North American opening weekend for April 26, which would absolutely be a new record. This would beat the $258 million set by its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War. For what it’s worth, that $24 million difference is effectively one Mary Poppins Returns opening weekend. Right now looking at the top 10 opening weekends ever, only Jurassic World was not a Disney movie. “The additional $24 million opening is entirely because this movie has Hawkeye in it,” according to box office analyst and charming newsletter writer Walt Hickey, who owns four pieces of Hawkeye-related apparel and is in no way in the tank for the character played by Jeremy Renner.
China is cracking down on unscrupulous companies that claim their employees teach English, but are in fact seriously underprepared. One busted company was “Bekerley Global Education Group,” (that is not a typo, they seriously misspelled Berkeley) which allegedly forged permits for unqualified workers. Since 2015, English tutors must come from an English-speaking country, or have a bachelor’s degree and work experience. A 2017 report pegged the annual spending on English-language education in China as 13 billion yuan, or $1.9 billion.
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