Numlock News: December 19, 2019 • Memes, Side Hustles, Star Wars
By Walt Hickey
China’s box office notched a new record, hauling in $8.76 billion as of Tuesday, or 61.2 billion yuan. That pushed it over the 60.7 billion earned in 2018, and continues China’s propulsion toward the world’s largest market for movies. To get a sense of how quickly this shift has happened, as recently as 2010 the Chinese box office accounted for just 10.2 billion yuan. More significantly, China is making more and more of its box office fare domestically rather than importing it: in 2018 the country produced 1,082 films, up significantly from the 970 produced in 2017. Foreign films — currently just 34 can be imported annually, per the quota — are up against an increasingly strong homegrown market.
Not-for-profit private colleges are looking at a difficult financial picture moving forward. Even setting aside policy proposals that would significantly reduce the cost of public colleges — which would seriously cut the appeal of pricey private schools — the past decade has been a rough one for such institutions, which saw their enrollment grow by 164,000 students from 2010 to 2017, significantly short of the 440,000 student growth seen in the prior decade. This is causing problems specifically for smaller schools that are having trouble securing financing amid declining endowments and rising liabilities, prompting some to go bankrupt and sell or merge.
Do The Hustle
Fully 17.28 percent of American tax filers in 2017 submitted the IRS form that indicates self-employment income, which was up from the 16.1 percent in 2010 and 13.84 percent seen in 2000. In 1981, that was just about 10 percent, and it’s indicative of the increasing fraction of Americans who have some sort of side hustle or business going. A 2019 survey by Gallup found that the vast majority of American workers are employed with one job (64 percent) and a further 13 percent are employed with multiple jobs. Another 8 percent are self-employed with a single job, but 11 percent are both self-employed as well as working for another, more traditional employer. When surveyed, those workers with multiple jobs mainly cited preference — 48 percent — while another third cited financial need and just 2 percent cited an inability to find a full time job.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is projected to make roughly $200 million this coming weekend at the box office, which will be less than the $220 million scored by The Last Jedi and $248 million made by The Force Awakens in 2015. Disney’s going to be fine, but theaters may feel a pinch. Given the inordinate demand for such a film, Disney was able to get 65 percent of the ticket sales from theaters, much higher than the 55 percent reaped by studios for most releases. Granted, even the most analytical Neimoidian would struggle to forecast revenue for a tentpole as considerable as this one. Still, a Star War coming in at $200 million? This is what you get for making a Star Wars sequel without the Yuhzong Vong, or Thrawn, or Tenel Ka, or Chewbacca playing catch with a planet and losing, Disney.
As of the end of November, a new estimate from Cowen & Co. projects that 24 million Americans have subscribed to Disney+, a figure that blows the doors off the 20 million projected subscriptions worldwide originally projected by some Wall Street forecasts. This report even calls into question previous reports that found Netflix didn’t take a hit from the launch of the Mouse’s streaming service: Cowen estimates about 1 million American Netflix subscribers cancelled service in the fourth quarter owing to Disney+. Roughly a third of Disney+ subscribers are getting it for free from Verizon for the next year, per projections, so it’ll be an exciting November 2020 for that and no other reasons whatsoever.
In 2018, a 30-second ad spot on Today on NBC averaged $42,700, considerably higher than the $34,800 it cost for a 30-second spot during Good Morning America. And while those dueling shows have been at it for decades, other contenders in the morning space are trying to muscle in on one of the few remaining reliable timeslots on television. Fox News is one of them: a similar 30-second spot during Fox & Friends goes for just $3,400 on the cable network, but the platform is looking to do more of the sponsored segments favored by ABC and NBC. Fox has dabbled in such segments before — recall a deeply sad skit where Terry Bradshaw of Fox Sports did a Tide ad in 2017, before the company realized Rob Gronkowski telling teens to stop eating Tide Pods was a better angle — but this new push will entail putting Fox & Friends hosts in an SUV they’re hawking.
A thirteen-year old crude pencil illustration that formed the basis for an internet meme has sold at auction for $5,100. Eschewing typical avenues for such works such as Sotheby’s or Christie’s, the work — Johnny Fiveaces, a terribly drawn proposed character for an equally terribly conceived video game — first rose to prominence in 2006 on the Something Awful forums, which for those out of the know, are the fires of Mount Doom from which the Internet’s weirder comedic sensibilities were forged. The original sketch of the artist — James Kunert-Graf of Seattle, then a teenage art prodigy — first hit the auction block at $75. The character was later included as an Easter Egg in the game Fallout: New Vegas.
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