By Walt Hickey
Box Office Forecast
Box office prediction is a difficult component of the film industry accounting, but Endgame’s effect on the forecast certainly felt like a hurricane intensifying on approach. In early April, Variety said it was on pace for a $200 million to $260 million opening. By a few days before the premiere, that forecast was hauled up to $250 million to $268 million, while the eventual domestic total hit $357 million. This isn’t the first time the Marvel Cinematic Universe outperformed: based on one database of box office projections, the average MCU movie since 2012’s Avengers outperformed the forecast by $18.3 million, or about 13.6 percent. By comparison, all the non-MCU Marvel movies — your Amazing Spider-Man and X-Men, Fantastic Fours and what not — under-performed by $2 million, or 2.6 percent. It’s more pronounced recently, but these super-releases illuminate just how much box office prediction is still more art than science.
Texas is fiercely debating changing up taxation in the state by lowering property taxes and paying for it by hiking sales taxes. The move would have slight impacts for most households — the lowest earning 60 percent of households would pay more, anywhere from $21 to $30 in taxes, while the richest quintile would see household net taxes drop $185, according to the projections — but the end result would be a more regressive taxation structure. The swap would also see businesses pay less overall in taxes, while consumers would pay more.
The time Americans actually take off from work has declined from 20.3 days per year in 1987 to 17.2 days in 2017. In 2017, the average U.S. worker didn’t take six of their paid vacation days on average, which in aggregate amounts to 705 million days of travel that were not used to relax and recharge. That can have serious effects: people who use all or most of their vacation were found in one study to be more likely to receive a raise or bonus, and a 40-year cardiovascular health study found from 1974 to 2004, men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who didn’t.
James Holzhauer electrified the game show Jeopardy!, and the results speak for themselves: ratings climbed from 9.6 million viewers during early appearances to 12 million tuning in by the end of the month. Household viewership grew by 12 percent each week and now stands at 27 percent higher than the same week last year. This makes Jeopardy! the top in syndication ratings, dislodging reigning queen Judge Judy for the past two weeks.
The City of Miami spent $620 million renovating their convention center, and part of that enormous overhaul was a $7 million budget for art in public places. Percent-for-art programs are ordinances that allocate funding from large capital improvement projects into the subsequent beautification of the city or town through art acquisitions. The Miami Beach ordinance sets 1.5 percent of funding aside, and the city’s new $7 million art budget is the largest percent-for-art expenditure for a municipality in American history. Over 500 artists applied, and the six selected will have their creations unveiled this month.
A new survey found that 55 percent of Russians said their country should end the military campaign in Syria, up from 49 percent in August 2017. The percentage who said Russia should remain in the conflict has held steady at 30 percent. Russia’s decision to launch air strikes on behalf of regime forces in 2015 was essential for the Assad regime to take back most of the country in their eight-year-long civil war.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program was launched in 2007 with the intent of encouraging people to take out educational loans and pursue public service jobs that may pay less in exchange for the eventual forgiveness of the loans. The issue? The Department of Education is not actually forgiving these loans. Of the 73,000 people who applied for debt forgiveness, as of March 31, merely 864 had their loans erased — a terrifying 1 percent approval rate. This information has sent a jolt of anxiety and fear through the hundreds of thousands who had been planning on the federal government upholding its end of the bargain. 56,354 requests have been denied for not meeting requirements, 18,785 for missing information, and 10,004 were pending as of the end of March.
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