Numlock News: September 16, 2019 • Hustlers, MoviePass, Hybrid Biological Microrobots

By Walt Hickey

The Hustle

Hustlers made $33.2 million across 3,250 theaters this weekend at the box office, which is good for second place behind It: Chapter Two but also a huge gain on the $25 million it was expected to make. The film stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu as strippers who carry out a heist, and is the best opening for each of the women at the helm and a huge win for a studio that spent $20 million to make it. The turnout was particularly buoyed by women: 67 percent of the opening weekend audience were women. Another new release wasn’t so fortunate: The Goldfinch endured the sixth-worst start of all time for a wide-release movie launching in 2,500 to 3,000 cinemas, making only $2.6 million. That film cost $45 million.

Pamela McClintock and Mia Galuppo, The Hollywood Reporter

Home of the Rams

Once again, high college tuition is going to indirectly fund sports, but this time it’s a little different. Social Finance Inc., the financial tech startup that focuses on online lending to refinance student loans, agreed to pay $30 million per year for the next 20 years to be the name of the new Los Angeles stadium of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. SoFi’s marketing budget surpasses $200 million annually, and I’m beginning to get a sense that student debt may be a bit of a problem in America, given those kinds of cash reserves. Think about this for a second: there are several thousand Americans for whom an incidental result of their decision to pursue higher education is SoFi being able to buy naming rights during the two decades they’re paying those loans off. The stadium will be at the centerpiece of the 2028 Olympics and the 2022 Super Bowl. It’s a great match: much like the student loan debt-crushed customers of their new sponsor, the Los Angeles Rams recently moved back into their original home because of a money issue.

Scott Soshnick, Bloomberg


If you’re wondering why I’ve been listening to Candle in the Wind on repeat for three days, the bad news has finally come: MoviePass, a paid subscription service for movies that mutated into a beautiful wealth transfer from investors to broke cinephiles and then imploded, was formally shut down by Helios and Matheson Analytics, the Daedalus that created the closest thing to an Icarus story since ancient times. The heyday of MoviePass was 2018, when the box office was up 7 percent to $11.9 billion. Their CEO — who was absolutely a real man with a business plan, and in no way a couple of tweakers crowbaring open a stolen ATM — claimed the company was responsible for 6 percent of all ticket sales in the first half of 2018, a boast that in retrospect sounds like a diagnosis. I used MoviePass to see the movie Tag, wherein one character allows himself to lose a game in order to fundamentally reshape the future of an entire friendship. In this analogy, the many new theater-owned film subscription services are the triumphant friends, and MoviePass is Jeremy Renner.

Andrew Gruttadaro, The Ringer


A solid gold toilet estimated to be worth about $1.25 million was stolen, and British police have arrested a 66-year-old man in connection with the theft. The lost loo is an art installation titled America, which ouch but I hear you, and was a plumbed-in, shall we say, fully operational battle station at Blenheim Palace. A group of thieves is believed to have rolled up in two vehicles, broke in, and left by 4:50 a.m. Security may have been a bit lax given the overall worth of the commode, but I do understand the reluctance to have security cameras on the work at all times.

Jenny Gathright, NPR

Fantastic Voyage

Researchers are working to combine living microbes with payloads to make hybrid biological microrobots that could one day deliver pharmaceuticals or target specific tissues of interest. Experimentation has developed such bots that can be steered with magnetic fields, light and chemical properties. One microbot made already is basically E. coli hooked up to red blood cells that have been flushed out and then filled with desired cargo. E. coli is a speedster, able to traverse 15 times its body length in a second, though technically in terms of “miles per hour,” the fastest they’ve clocked an E. coli is a half-mile per year, or 0.000057 miles per hour.

Tom Siegfried, Knowable Magazine

Frequent Flyer Miles

A Chicago man was indicted last week after being accused of fraudulently obtaining 42 million Delta SkyBonus points, which accrue to businesses when their employees fly Delta, valued by the airline at $1.75 million. Prosecutors said that the managing partner of Vega Travel created a SkyBonus account for a fertility clinic and then used that account number for travelers who had no connection to that group whatsoever. The man has been charged with 12 counts of wire fraud.

David Slotnick, Insider, Department of Justice


Publicly traded U.S. retailers have announced closures of 8,558 store locations, and openings of just 3,446 so far this year alone. That’s a nightmarish churn rate. As in the totality of 2018, during what even then was a retailpocalypse, there were 5,844 store closures and 3,258 openings. Coresight Research estimated that the total store closures in 2019 could hit 12,000. Interestingly, when considering the entire retail space of both publicly traded and privately held companies, lots of the pain is consolidated in just a fraction of brands: for each company closing locations, there are 5.2 that are opening new locations.

Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

Yesterday’s Sunday edition with Chris Ingraham, author of If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now, was really fun, be sure to check it out. Thanks to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at Send corrections or typos to the copy desk at

The very best way to reach new readers is word of mouth. If you click THIS LINK in your inbox, it’ll create an easy-to-send pre-written email you can just fire off to some friends.

Previous 2019 Sunday special editions: Invasive Species ·  The Rat Spill ·  The Sterling Affairs ·  Snakebites ·  Bees ·  Deep Fakes ·  Artificial Intelligence ·  Marijuana ·  Mussels ·  100% Renewable Grid ·  Drive Thru Dreams ·  Department Stores & Champion ·  Baltimore Crab Shacks ·  Kylie Jenner ·  Amber Fossils ·  Self-Improvement ·

Box Office Forecasting ·  Crazy/Genius ·  Scrubbers ·  Saving the World ·  Summer Movies ·  No One Man Should Have All That Power ·  Film Incentives ·  Stadiums & Casinos ·  Late Night ·  65 is the new 50 ·  Scooternomics ·  Gene Therapy ·  SESTA/FOSTA ·  CAPTCHA ·  New Zealand ·  Good To Go ·  California Football ·  Personality Testing ·  China’s Corruption Crackdown ·  Yosemite
2018 Sunday Editions:2018  ·  Game of Thrones  ·  Signal Problems · CTE and Football · Facebook · Shark Repellent · Movies · Voting Rights · Goats · Invitation Only · Fat Bear Week · Weinersmith · Airplane Bathrooms ·  NIMBYs ·  Fall 2018 Sports Analytics ·  The Media  ·  Omega-3  ·  Mattress Troubles  ·  Conspiracy Theorists  ·  Beaches  ·  Bubbles  ·  NYC Trash  ·  Fish Wars  ·  Women’s Jeans  ·  Video Stores