By Walt Hickey
Beloved Animated Film Fight
Though Toy Story 4 had a very solid opening in the domestic market with $118 million, the fourth entry in the storied and seminal animation franchise came in second in China to another iconic animation powerhouse. Toy Story 4 made only $13.2 million in China, in part because Chinese exhibitors programmed more screenings of the iconic 2002 Hayao Miyazaki film Spirited Away, which had its first exhibition in China to the tune of $28 million. I’m sure that notoriously fighty internet animation nerds — fresh off a new battle in the subs v. dubs war with Netflix’s release of Neon Genesis Evangelion — are handling this head-to-head battle just great now that a third impartial party finally solved which is better, Pixar or Studio Ghibli.
Burn A CD
A number of bands, musicians and estates launched a $100 million lawsuit last Friday over a 2008 fire at a Universal Music Group storage facility. A recent New York Times report alleges the fire was considerably larger than originally reported. The new information purports that despite UMG’s original claims downplaying the damage, in reality hundreds of thousands of master recordings burned, which the plaintiffs allege is a breach of contract. The suit further claims that UMG successfully pursued insurance claims valued at $150 million, but that is yet to be confirmed. Fear not music fans, this is the record industry we’re talking about, if anyone is going to guarantee their talented performers are well taken care of in a non-acrimonious and distressing manner, it’s record executives.
McDonald’s sold 40 million more Quarter Pounders in the first quarter of 2019 than it did in the same quarter the previous year, the result of a $60 million four-year production chain overhaul that allowed the fast food retailer to have fresh, not frozen, beef used for the patties in the lower 48 United States’ stores. All told the chain said it sold 30 percent more Quarter Pounders in the year of launch than before.
The first-ever Central Park squirrel census has concluded that there are 2,373 of the rodents living their best lives in the largest park in Manhattan, which takes up 843 acres. The animals — which presumably learned to adapt their diet to the area after Bloomberg eliminated their main food source, used cigarette butts — were tracked as part of a program to figure out exactly how many of the various types inhabit the park, which is about 81 percent gray squirrels.
Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is the latest game from Niantic, the producer of the many-times-over blockbuster game Pokémon Go. This game is built on the vaunted and totally not overused Harry Potter intellectual property, and was downloaded an estimated 400,000 times within 24 hours, bringing in an estimated $300,000 in revenue. That is a really solid start, but not exactly Pokémon Go numbers, which was downloaded 7.5 million times and made $2 million back in the heady days of July 2016. So while Pokémon Go cleared $100 million in revenue in two weeks, forecasters put Wizards Unite crossing that threshold in an estimated 30 days. Worth remembering that while Pokémon Go allowed users to fulfill an otherwise unreachable lifelong dream of catching Pokémon, Wizards Unite has such gameplay opportunities as “find stuff,” “choose a job” and “fight against wildlife,” which I want to stress are three things I can do anyway. I can do all of that in Central Park if I want, now that our crucial intelligence-gathering mission against the squirrels has wrapped up.
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In 2018, the average American spent 15 minutes per day reading for pleasure, down from 23 minutes in 2005. The amount of time spent watching television rose by about 20 minutes to 2 hours and 50 minutes per day, and it’s not the fault of young people. The source of that growth is best seen in men over age 65, who added an hour per day to their TV time, watching just over 4 hours of television per day in 2003 and increasing to 5 hours of television per day in 2018. Women of the same age added about a half hour of TV time. And while young people may be playing more video games in their free time, otherwise television and computer time use is flat. Meanwhile, the percentage of seniors reading for pleasure on a given day fell from 53 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2018.
The production of cement was responsible for 6.9 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, which was larger than the fraction of CO2 emissions produced by trucks (6.1 percent), steel (5.1 percent) and just shy of the 7.9 percent produced by cars. To make cement, you have to burn limestone in a kiln at 2,600 Fahrenheit to make clinker. This means that a ton of cement — 13 tons fit in a cement truck — results in the emission of a half ton of CO2, which exceeds the amount emitted on a car ride from New York to Miami. And if cement production rises as estimated anywhere from 12 to 23 percent by 2050, that’s a serious issue. Cement manufacturers were willing to make carbon-free product by capturing the emissions, but customers balked at the expense and didn’t buy. A yard of commonly used Portland cement goes for $51, while the more carbon-friendly and better performing geopolymer stuff can cost $161.
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