Numlock News: October 22, 2019 • Costumes, Gemini Man, Tipping

By Walt Hickey


We’re a mere week away from Halloween, which is an $8.8 billion event where 67 percent of Americans spend $3.2 billion on costumes alone. That’s more than they spend on candy or decorations, which makes sense: most Halloween candy is terrible and not even Snickers, and it’s not like it costs a fortune to make a house look more dilapidated and plausibly haunted, it actually just takes neglect or roommates. Today 25 percent of Americans buy their costumes online, which makes sense, because if you’re going to be Sexy Joker, Sexy Volodymyr Zelensky or 30-50 Sexy Feral Hogs, you might not want to make eye contact with a clerk.

Jasmin Malik Chua, Vox


In 2017, banks and other financial institutions alerted the CFPB of 63,500 suspicious activity reports related to the financial exploitation of older adults, which is a fourfold jump since 2013. They reported $1.7 billion in attempted thefts and losses, which the CFPB believes is less than 2 percent of all such crime, with estimates ranging as high as $36.5 billion in crimes attempting to steal from the elderly. One survey of financial advisors found 62 percent had suspected financial abuse of an older client, as the elderly have a financial target on their back from scammers known and unknown.

Nick Leiber, Bloomberg

High Frame Rate, Negative Profit

Gemini Man, a film that starred VFX and had an enormous Will Smith budget, will lose something like $75 million amid a weak international opening and weaker domestic opening. So far it’s made $118.7 million worldwide, which would be great, except it cost $140 million to make even after tax rebates and incentives, and $100 million was spent on marketing. The loss will be spread out between Alibaba, which put up 5 percent, China’s Fosun, with 25 percent, and Paramount and Skydance, which each had a 35 percent stake. The appetite for 3D cooled worldwide, with merely 26 percent of the international grosses for Gemini Man coming from screens broadcasting in more than two dimensions.

Pamela McClintock, The Hollywood Reporter


The publishing business’ annual revenue is more than $43 billion, moving 2.7 billion books annually in the United States. Still, the business is finicky and determining how to pick a bestseller is hardly a science. This is a tough marketplace for authors: while 3 million books were published in 2015 in the U.S., just 4,000 new titles sold more than 1,000 copies within a year, and just about 500 became bestsellers on the New York Times list. A new paper used machine learning to determine predictive measures of success. In thrillers and mystery, the publishing history of an individual author was particularly important, while for literary fiction or religion the track record wasn’t as necessary as the author’s visibility.

Xindi Wang, Burcu Yucesoy, Onur Varol, Tina Eliassi-Rad and Albert-László Barabási, EPJ Data Science


A new analysis of 40 million rideshare trips presents an unprecedented look at the social mores surrounding Uber and Lyft. Just 16 percent of Uber rides were tipped over the four weeks of data collection, and 60 percent of riders never tipped over the course of those four weeks while just 1 percent tipped on every trip. As for the rest of them, people tipped on around 25 percent of trips. The average tip per trip was $0.50, but that factors in untipped rides: when a tip was made, the average was $3. Riders who had five stars tipped twice as often as those with 4.75 stars, and tipped 14 percent more in general. Men tipped 23 percent more than women, and men tipped women drivers 12 percent more than male drivers.

Bharat Chandar, Uri Gneezy, John A. List and Ian Muir, NBER


In wealthier countries, for every 10 percent increase in the price of soda, purchases declined by 8 percent. That’s larger price elasticity than in other vices like cigarettes (4 percent purchase drop for a 10 percent price hike) or alcohol (range of 5 percent to 8 percent). One study based on CDC data has found that added sugar beverages are down anyway in the U.S., with 62 percent of American adults drinking a sugary beverage per day in 2003 falling to 50 percent by 2014. Among kids, it’s down from 80 percent to 61 percent over the same period.

Greg Miller, Knowable Magazine


In 2007, the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of Americans identified as Christian, and just 16 percent of Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated. In 2018 and 2019, based on preliminary aggregations of Pew surveys, that’s fallen to 65 percent of Americans who are Christian and up to 26 percent of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated. The fall in religiosity is most pronounced among Americans born 1981 to 1996, the millennials, who have seen the fraction who identify as Christian fall 16 percentage points over the decade.

Pew Research Center

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