By Walt Hickey
Mulan, the centerpiece of a decade of Disney attempting to make inroads to Chinese audiences and expanding their global footprint, has bombed in China compared to expectations. The film — made specifically to appeal to filmgoers in China — made $23.2 million there in its opening weekend, which is behind the amount made by Tenet, which was not made explicitly to please Chinese audiences but rather to appeal to Christopher Nolan’s personal obsession with the concept of time. About 91 percent of cinemas in China are open, capped at half capacity. The opening weekend is behind that of the remake of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Jungle Book.
This year the retail industry has a problem in that the holiday shopping season simply may not be long enough to get items into the hands of people who want them logistically, with the entire American distribution system already being under unexpected duress. The solution that a number of as-yet-unreported retailers are turning to is 10.10, a manufactured holiday that seeks to pull the kind of money that would be laid out on Black Friday into October to give the retailers and their distribution partners the runway they need to get everything delivered and get some slack. It even mimics China’s Singles Day — an invented holiday on November 11 that began in the ‘90s, but last year generated $38 billion in sales — and would be held on October 10.
Herpetologists at the St. Louis Zoo are trying to get to the bottom of a 62-year-old ball python who laid seven eggs despite not being anywhere near a male in over twenty years. The python produced seven eggs, making her the oldest snake known to lay eggs, but let’s get back to that virgin birth thing for a moment. After laying the clutch on July 23, three remain in incubation, as two did not survive, two were used for genetic testing to determine if this is a bona fide asexual reproduction, and if the three live they’ll hatch in a month or so. Though the situation is deeply clouded, there is a solid chance that the hatchling will be the one to finally bring balance to the force and allow the Jedi to finally defeat the Sssssssssith.
Logos that include a nostalgic nod to the year the firms were established — like “Numlock News, Est. 2018” — are making a massive comeback, even vastly outpacing the older style they were designed to imitate. The appearance of “Est.” in trademarks is happening at a rate 17 times higher in the year 2020 than in 1980. Of the 494 “Est.” trademarks filed in 2020, the average year that the companies indicate they were founded is a sprightly 1992. Previously when companies boasted of their establishment in their logo the firms were of slightly older vintage, as the average year “Est.” in trademarks filed in the year 2000 was 1939. The rate of “Est.” in trademarks in the 2010s also significantly exceeds the rate of the 1910s, which is the general era the folksy inclusion is trying to evoke.
Vote By Mail
Voting by mail is an increasingly attractive and necessary option for voters, but it requires actual infrastructure to accomplish, large machines to be built and acquired, and a significant effort to get the ballots where they need to be. In 2016, 20 percent of Americans voted by mail, but this year it could be as high as 50 percent. A commercial grade printer can make 50,000 ballots in an hour, but it takes an enormous $500,000 device called an inserter to get the envelopes — linked by barcode to a specific voter — appropriately stuffed at the clip of 14,000 ballots per hour. The process is meticulous: when in 2014, an inserter misfired for 35 seconds in Phoenix, 232 voters in California and 1,000 in Colorado and Arizona got misprinted ballots, and when they caught the error they were able to fix that. The other 3.8 million ballots handled at the facility were fine.
A 2019 survey conducted by the National Center for Science Education and Penn State found that 67 percent of public high school biology teachers were teaching evolution straightforwardly, not jamming in creationist ideas that had been mandated in a number of states. In 2007, that level was just 51 percent presenting evolution as settled science. As for the rest, 15 percent avoided the topic, 12 percent presented mixed messages endorsing both the evidence-based evolutionary theory and creationism, and just 5.6 percent of biology teachers taught only creationism and did not endorse evolution, which, wait, what?
Warner Bros. released Tenet in the domestic market — which in movie parlance means “The U.S. and Canada” — to test the appetite for returning to the cinema for major films. The response has been tepid to say the least, but what’s interesting is that Warner is not releasing the kind of granular, daily data that exhibitors and rivals rely on in order to get a good idea of what’s happening in box offices. As best as analysts could approximate, the 11-day domestic total of Tenet likely looks like $2.5 million in the first weekend from Canada, $11.2 million for Labor Day weekend and $12 million over the four-day week. Studios typically get access to by-the-hour data on box office sales, and pay lots of money for that; Rentrak is concealing those dailies as a courtesy to Warner Bros. given their gamble of releasing Tenet domestically first. Meanwhile, other studios are in the dark, as are the New York and California cinemas that are closed, so while this is helping Warner save face, it’s potentially going to lead to more fog-of-war errors in the entertainment business and everyone is pretty ticked off.
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