By Walt Hickey
Despite coronavirus, Mulan is poised to hit the box office with all the force of a great typhoon, projected to haul in a massive $85 million when it hits cinemas on March 27. The film — which cost $200 million to make — needs to bank on a global opening that has the strength of a raging fire, but how audiences contend with congregating in cinemas during an uncertain outbreak remains mysterious as the dark side of the moon. Disney has no plans to alter the rollout of Mulan, but said it’ll open in certain foreign markets at a later date, gosh I wonder which ones they mean.
The hottest, best-selling cocktail on the market is a fragrant aloe vera concoction with 60 percent alcohol by volume, I’m talking about hand sanitizer. Even before COVID-19, the global hand sanitizer market was doing just stellar, projected to be worth $5.5 billion by 2024, which is pretty good for a bunch of goo mixed with Everclear. Purell, which is private, had sales pegged at $266 million per year in 2016. And sure, the best way to decontaminate your hands is to wash them while singing the chorus to Beyonce’s “Love on Top,” but hand sanitizer is distinctly fine, killing bacteria and destroying viruses without messing with that whole “anti-biotic resistance” stuff.
MGM delayed No Time To Die, the latest edition of the James Bond franchise, from its forthcoming April release date to November. Part of this is because MGM is not exactly the kind of studio lousy with intellectual property — the decidedly niche studio has a slim roster and the success or failure of its Bond movie is make-or-break — but also because the highly international Bond franchise saw in some estimates a possible 30 percent decrease in final box office numbers — $300 million out of a $1 billion possible revenue — as a result of fears around the coronavirus and diminished attendance. The good news? MGM’s marketing campaign hadn’t yet started firing on all cylinders, though they’ll take a $30 million to $50 million hit by moving the release back seven months given the current marketing outlay. That includes a $4.5 million Super Bowl slot for a film that is now to be released toward the end of the next NFL season. Don’t worry, I hear they know a guy who can win it back in a casino for them. Anyway, enjoy SNL tomorrow featuring guest host Daniel Craig, who I guess will plug the Knives Out DVD and Blu-Ray.
The price of a semester’s tuition at Purdue University, an Indiana land-grant university, stands at $9,992 per year, a miracle in higher education. Even more so because it’s held that sticker price for seven years, since former Indiana governor and somewhat notorious penny-pincher Mitch Daniels took over in 2013. Between 2007 and 2017, the average annual tuition at a four-year public university rose 28 percent (even after taking inflation into account) from an average of approximately $15,000 to over $19,000 per year, just one reason 70 percent of college students have to take on debt to get higher ed. At Purdue, 60 percent leave debt free.
The market for agricultural equipment is $68 billion per year, and it’s dominated by one green and yellow stalwart, John Deere, which accounts for over half the farm equipment moved domestically and over a third of that worldwide. The two runner-up tractor manufacturers — Case New Holland and Kubota Corp — combine for less of the market than Deere alone. However, some farmers are rebelling against what they consider to be onerous data sharing, repair and software licensing from Deere that make buying a tractor a long-term commitment to the John Deere corporation. Tractors have become incredibly sophisticated instruments, laden with sensors designed to optimize farming. Sure, that drives efficiency gains — crop yields have grown by 1.4 percent every year for the past 70 years — but for those who want the right to repair their own equipment, that comes at a cost.
Salmon and herring have served as conduits of nitrogen from the deep sea to coastal areas for time immemorial, with their enormous migrations leading to feasts for bears around inland rivers. While bears eat some parts of the salmon, they leave plenty behind, and over the course of 40 days a single black bear can single-handedly move 1,600 kilograms of salmon carcass fertilizer into the woods. This has a positive effect on trees: for those surrounded by salmon remains, research found as much as 75 percent of their nitrogen can come from the fish. A new research paper found this doesn’t just come from salmon, but also calcium-rich shells of discarded shellfish — transported by gulls and crows inland — help with revitalizing soils.
Lobster prices have bottomed out as a result of coronavirus, with major Asian markets closing their doors and a glut of Canadian lobster leading to rock-bottom prices. In a typical week, nine charter flights fly from Nova Scotia to South Korea or China full of lobsters, about 1.5 million pounds in a given week. Absent of access to those markets, Canada’s fishmongers are forced to reluctantly look south and slash prices. New England halves — a 1.5 pound whole lobster — are down 17 percent since January 20, now at $8.10. The 10-year average price around this time of year is $9.85, and last year they cost $10.70. It’s been brutal for the industry, so do everyone a favor and treat yourself to the bargain bisque if you see it.
This week on the Sunday Special, I talked to Frank Pallotta of CNN Business all about this year in media and entertainment, from streaming service launches to a real transitional year for the whole industry and the Disney CEO transition. It’s a fun one.
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