Numlock News: June 1, 2020 • Beef, Bikes, "Billionaire"

By Walt Hickey

Welcome back!

Wretched

The horror film The Wretched has held the top spot on the box office charts for five consecutive weekends, a feat last achieved by Black Panther in 2018. Granted, the conditions around that achievement are considerably different; Panther was an international box office juggernaut that would go on to secure an Academy Award Best Picture nomination, while The Wretched is basically the only game in town at drive-in movie theaters in terms of new films. All told, the film has secured box office hegemony while still earning just $660,000 to date.

Rebecca Rubin, Variety

Billionaire Scandal

Forbes declared Kylie Jenner a self-made billionaire several years ago, but a closer interrogation of the figures provided to them have caused them to reconsider. In November 2019, Kylie sold 51 percent of her cosmetics line to Coty for $600 million, which valued the company at $1.2 billion. However, the reported revenues of the cosmetics company did not, according to Forbes, align with the earlier figures upon which they based their estimates. Over the 12 months preceding the deal Kylie Cosmetics actually brought in $177 million in revenue, and sales were up 40 percent from 2018. The problem: Forbes was under the impression, based on documentation provided by the Jenners, that the company had done $360 million in revenue in 2018, not the $125 million that Coty implied. So, either business significantly collapsed, numbers were fudged, or maybe, just maybe, deeming someone a billionaire in print based on self-reported figures is a dumb idea.

Madeline Berg and Chase Peterson-Withorn, Forbes

Biometrics

The United States Department of Homeland Security has biometric data on over 250 million people. That data is collected at airports and other border crossings, but it’s hardly the largest government repository of biometric data. The DHS is trying to gain access to that database, the Department of State’s Consolidated Consular Database, which has 290 million passport records, 184 million visas, and 25 million records on U.S. citizens who live abroad. The FBI has a database of 38 million photos linked to fingerprints, and the Department of Defense has 7.4 million identities in its biometric database. The DHS is working on linking its system to those other systems, so as to build some sort of pan-national optical reconnaissance system — I’ll abbreviate that to panopticon — for reasons they’re pretty vague about.

Dave Gershgorn, OneZero

Awards

The Daytime Emmys are going to a virtual ceremony in late June because, in the interest of national security, the women of The View must be protected at all costs. A new survey found broad support for virtual ceremonies in general; among self-identified regular award show viewers, 59 percent said they’d be interested in a virtual Primetime Emmy awards, compared to 34 percent who would not be interested. Just 30 percent of regular award show viewers would not be interested in a virtual Golden Globes — they’d have to airlift a crate of booze to each nominee’s house to get them properly soused ahead of speech time — but it’s the Oscars that are of most interest. Two-thirds were fine with a virtual Oscars, and I have to say that solves the thorny issue of picking a host, as Zoom rules allow a host that’s quitting — presumably due to some deeply problematic tweets from a number of years ago — to simply delegate the next host on their way out, saving the Academy some trouble.

Sarah Shevenock, Morning Consult

Booze

Weeks after liquor delivery apps achieved new highs people are still ordering a lot of alcohol at home. In the week of May 25, sales on the delivery app Drizly were 382 percent higher than the baseline rate before the nationwide shutdown on bars and gathering places forced people into mixing their own highballs. That’s vastly higher than normal, but still somehow down from the 460 percent sales growth over baseline seen the week of April 13.

Matthew Boyle, Bloomberg

Beef

After peaking in mid-May at just over $6 per pound, the wholesale price of ground beef is declining back to earth, hitting $4.07 per pound on May 27, the lowest level seen since May 4. For perspective, in early March a pound of ground beef went for around $1.80. Overall, beef prices in general are up 21.7 percent year over year, pork prices are up 17.7 percent, and chicken prices are up 10.5 percent. Production is down, slightly: beef production last week was about 7 percent lower than the same time last year, but overall the initial supply chain crunch is beginning to ease.

Jacob Bunge and Jaewon Kang, The Wall Street Journal

Bikes

With transit riders considering their options moving forward, bike shops are worried about their stocks. The cycling business has seen sales increase over 30 percent since the end of March, with sales for adult bikes doubling in March. Searches for “bikes” on Google are about twice their highest level in the past year. The issue is that if demand were to lead to a supply crunch, about 90 to 95 percent of U.S. bikes come from China, and production of both fully assembled bikes as well as individual components was shut down for weeks. The lead time for bike manufacturers is 90 to 120 days, so the bikes sold in May were made in January or February. On the bright side, somewhere this ends with someone getting to watch their boss roll into the office on Heelys, so it’s not all bad. What’s a black market Razor scooter going for these days? I have no dignity whatsoever and am willing to bargain.

Rebecca Heilweil, Recode

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