By Walt Hickey
In the past year, the government of Ontario managed to lose $42 million selling marijuana, a business known predominantly for how absolutely simple it is to turn a moderate profit. The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation was the provincial Crown corporation in charge of wholesale pot distribution and reported revenues of $64 million on the year ending March 31, 2019, with expenses of $106 million over the period. The roll out of the legal weed — Canada legalized adult marijuana use in October of last year — was said by Ontario’s finance minister to require significant up front costs. Nevertheless, after just one year on the job the CEO of the company resigned, perhaps after realizing the nature of his position did not come with the traditional benefit of playing an hour of Mario Kart 64 with his customers.
IN A WORLD where most cinemas screen five to eight trailers ahead of the feature, a new survey finds 59 percent of Americans said the ideal number of pre-show trailers is one to three. Many audiences are dissatisfied with seeing the phalanx of promotional material just before the beginning of a film. Just 21 percent of respondents to the Morning Consult poll were in favor of watching four to six trailers, and just 2 percent are maniacs like myself content to watch seven to nine. AMC has 20 minutes of pre-show, Regal’s are 15 to 20 minutes and Cinemark keep it to 15 minutes. Trailers are fine, if anything what could stand a trim is the basic promotional content telling people about their proximity to popcorn, or inexplicably pitching The Opera, or reminding the weary moviegoer about the existence of Coca-Cola in the event they have since forgotten about it.
For years, the price of vanilla was about $50 per kilogram, but beginning in 2015 the price began to rise, and for the past four years vanilla has cost somewhere between $400 and $600 per kilogram. Storms have destroyed lots of vines and demand for vanilla from enormous multinationals like Unilever, Mars and Archer Daniels Midland has remained high. This has been big for Madagascar, which grows 80 percent of the world’s vanilla, and it’s meant that lots of farmers are unexpectedly getting extremely rich in what has been among the 10 poorest countries in the world.
Juul, a subsidiary of a powerful tobacco conglomerate that makes one of the most addictive substances on earth taste like candy and puts it within reach of children, has taken a bit of a ding to their reputation. Since July 2018, according to Morning Consult’s Brand Intelligence ongoing survey, Juul’s net favorability has fallen by 22 points. Among the 6,355 responses collected in the 30 days preceding September 12, 33 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable opinion of the vapemonger, compared to just 10 percent who were then fans. Among adults aged 18 to 21, Juul’s net favorability is -27 percentage points, ahead of the national trend. This has made Juul the second-least popular brand out of the 2,000 tracked by Morning Consult.
Rumors of the demise of analog have been largely overstated. Sure, the usage of physical media has taken a dive as digital competitors gain a large share of the mainstream marketplace, but literally vinyl album sales are up 12.9 percent to $224 million — and 6 percent when it comes to units sold, to 8.6 million vinyl albums sold — in the first half of 2019, compared to the same period last year. Paper’s also doing alright. Hardcover book sales were up 6.9 percent in 2018, paperback sales were up 1.1 percent and eBook sales dipped 3.6 percent. Even the number of magazines is rising: the number of print magazines rose from 7,176 to 7,218 that year thanks to the formation of new ‘zines.
Women in Film
Annually, one of my favorite reports to track is the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s analysis of the thousands of speaking characters in the top-grossing 100 films of the year. It’s thorough, comprehensive, and highly illuminating, if often disappointing to read, with little progress typically seen year to year when it comes to increasing inclusion. Still, their preliminary analysis of the top 100 films of 2019 is highly encouraging: based on the projections, at minimum 12 films will have a female director, which is more than twice the level of 2018 and higher than any year measured since 1980.
There are over 8,000 shipwrecks around the world in various states of corrosion that still contain toxic oil that could be released into the environment to a devastating effect. Based on estimates of ships that were sunk during the Second World War, wrecks in the South Pacific alone contain anywhere from 500 million to 4.5 billion liters of oil, at minimum 12 times the amount dumped by the Exxon Valdez. Researchers and divers are attempting to triage the wrecks, analyzing naval refueling and cargo records and reports from the vessels’ destruction to determine the most dangerous oceanic time bombs. They’ve cut a list of 3,000 such ships in the South Pacific to 50 high-risk wrecks for which time is critical even if money is slim.
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