By Walt Hickey
The End of the Game
Did you hear it? An inhuman howl of triumph in the Los Angeles night, to the untrained ear emanating from an enormous wolf of Baskervillian proportions but to those who know it, the unmistakable roar of a Pandoran Thanator, coming from one of James Cameron’s many villas not yet lost to a divorce. That’s right, despite the first of presumably several tricks, Endgame failed to topple the box office record of Avatar. The re-release of Avengers: Endgame timed for one final push for the record books appears to have fallen flat, with the film pulling in $5.5 million domestically and about $12.5 million abroad. This means the film’s $2.76 billion is still $26 million behind the worldwide box office record set by Avatar of $2.78 billion.
The United States women’s national team has racked up a serious pile of victories in the World Cup, making it to the quarterfinals after a decisive defeat of tournament favorite France on their own home turf. Doing so notched the Americans $90,000 each in bonuses, according to documents seen by The Guardian. Still, if the women’s team got the same bonuses as the lackluster men’s team, they would have already gotten $550,000 each. The maximum tournament earnings for an American female player in the World Cup is $260,869, compared to $1,114,429 for a male player.
Tik Tok, a social media app made by Chinese company Bytedance, has been spending a fortune advertising on other social networks. This is causing some issues for the other social networks like Facebook and Snap who are wondering whether this is money they should actually be taking given that they are possibly fueling a direct competitor. Average users spend 45 minutes per day on the app and opens it eight times per day. It’s spending $1 billion on ads per year, and is even eyeing Snap, Twitter and Quora. Some doubt whether the company can actually achieve the permanence enjoyed by its more established rivals, but given that the internet has been trying to do “YTMND, but profitable” and failing for years now — looking at you, Vine — it’s got a shot. The Facebook clone of Tik Tok has 1 percent of its downloads, so it’s doing something right.
HBO’s hit miniseries Chernobyl was a major critical success for the premium network, but is also translating to a major commercial success for enterprising Ukrainian tour companies that take people on trips to the abandoned region surrounding the nuclear power facility. Chernobyl-Tour expects 150,000 bookings by the end of the season, which is twice the number last year.
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While Canadians celebrate Canada Day, for the people of Quebec it’s a more stressful occasion: It’s Moving Day in Montreal. Back in 1750, inhabitants of Quebec moved annually one day in May, and in 1866 the July 1 date was formalized as the date when leases began and end. That lasted through 1974, when Moving Day was technically unshackled from July 1, but given that the whole city was timed around that date, the date has managed to endure. Given how low homeownership rates are — 55 percent in Montreal — it remains a huge deal. Last year 250,000 people in Quebec moved on or around July 1. About 70,000 Montreal households move each year, and that logistical nightmare also manages to generate 55,000 tons of garbage.
A lawsuit alleging Led Zeppelin lifted the riffs for “Stairway to Heaven” from an earlier artist has uncovered something truly shocking about the state of pre-1978 copyrighted songs. Before then, the law required artists to submit sheet music to the U.S. Copyright Office to lock down their songs, but a review of the actual material submitted to the feds reveals some of the most iconic riffs of classic rock are simply not included in the material. So technically, in the eyes of the law, there’s a serious possibility that they’re not protected and thus open for use for an individual with a sufficient stomach for inevitable and Valkyrie-esque litigation. The songs in peril are familiar: “Hotel California” has two registrations, but neither has the solos or the intro. “Free Bird,” a very long song, the vast majority of which is a mighty guitar solo, is in the government’s eyes eight lines long. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” does not contain a saxophone, in the eyes of copyright officials, which is a travesty.
The Subway chain of restaurants may have overextended a bit, and a new report looking at suits from angry franchisees seems to show agents working on the company’s behalf going to great lengths to shut down or fold franchises to the dismay of those who own them. In 2018, Subway launched 29 litigation actions for every 1,000 franchisees, vastly higher than the 1.4 actions per McDonald’s, Dunkin’, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s or Burger King combined. Now contending not only with rivals, but also with serious pressure from corporate, of 1,551 federally-backed loans approved for Subway franchisees, 12 percent were charged off, way higher than the average. Subway has 24,000 restaurants, partly thanks to the shorter up front franchise fees of $15,000, compared to $45,000 for McDonald’s, and Subway gets 8 percent of gross sales, which is quite high.
Bottled water remains stubbornly — even increasingly — popular, and Pepsi is considering new delivery mechanisms for its Aquafina product that leave less of an environmental scar. Only 9 percent of single use plastic items are recycled, compared to 67 percent of the consumer aluminum. That’s why Pepsi is going to introduce canned Aquafina, an experiment to see if Americans are content to consumed canned water that does not contain bubbles.
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