Numlock News: December 19, 2022 • Avatar, Ajinomoto, Christmas Movies
By Walt Hickey
Avatar: The Way of Water made $134 million domestically and $301 million overseas for a global haul of $435 million. That’s the third-biggest global opening of the pandemic era, and though it misses expectations of $150 million to $175 million, James Cameron movies in general and Avatar in particular tended to benefit from a longer tail and better staying power. The Way of Water is in fact the first Cameron movie to make $100 million in a single weekend. The overseas market — where the original Avatar made over $2 billion — was humming, with China delivering $57.1 million, Korea $24.7 million, Germany $19.9 million and France with $19.3 million. The movie won’t be playing in Russia, where Avatar made $116 million.
At the NFL owners meeting in Dallas, league officials reportedly chastened team owners for their profligate spending on fired coaches, urging restraint. Evidently the league’s 32 franchises have spent $800 million on fired coaches and fired front office executives in the past five years. Highlights include the Panthers owing four years on Matt Rhule’s $60 million seven-year contract, the Colts paying ex-coach Frank Reich $9 million a year for four years, and the Giants are paying three different head coaches this year, including their current staff, the staff they fired in January, and the staff they fired in 2020.
This year roughly 150 new Christmas movies will premiere on television and streaming, including 40 from Hallmark Media, 26 from Lifetime, and scattered efforts from any other minor contenders. They’re cheap as hell to make — Warner Bros. Discovery can crank them out for HBO Max for $3 million to $5 million a pop — and have excellent replay value on a long enough timespan. Nobody seems to be pulling back new production: Hallmark’s 40 films this year beats the 31 made last year and the roughly 22-film annual average from 2016 to 2020.
Addiction groups are warning of a surge in interest from younger and younger people seeking treatment for gambling addictions, particularly young men. A survey of 11th and 12th graders in Ohio found that the percentage who reported being unable to control their gambling rose to 8.3 percent in 2022, up from just 4.2 percent in 2018. The new legalization of mobile sports betting and apps with casino game-like qualities is seen as an issue in adolescents getting turned onto problem gambling habits.
Japan’s Ajinomoto is best known as the company founded by the developer of the umami flavor MSG, and throughout its long history has predominantly been known as a flavor manufacturer. That said, a funky diversification decision that got the company into the technology space has begun to grow into a significant chunk of the 113-year-old company’s business. The process of making monosodium glutamate involves converting sugar into glutamic acid, and a byproduct is chlorinated paraffin, which when combined with an epoxy becomes an excellent insulation material. This material, when turned into a film, is used to insulate CPUs in computers. It’s called ABF, which literally means Ajinomoto build-up film substrate, and in the fiscal year ending March 31 the segment that produces it hauled in 28.9 billion yen, up 53 percent year over year, and as of fiscal year 2021 was 23 percent of Ajinomoto’s profits. Investors are savoring that.
The Keystone pipeline has dumped an estimated 588,000 gallons of oil into Mill Creek in Washington County, Kansas, stemming from an issue with the pipeline first observed on December 7. Environmental advocates say the cleanup will take years. The cause has not yet been named, but the type of oil that spilled was tar sands oil, known as diluted bitumen, which is thick and especially difficult to clean up. It’s being compared to a 2010 incident where 1.2 million gallons of tar sands crude was dumped into Talmadge Creek in Michigan, a cleanup which cost over $1 billion and lasted from 2010 to 2014. Keystone has had at least 23 leaks in its history.
Congress’ passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act in August meant that former residents of the military base can sue the government for compensation for health issues stemming from their time on the base and access a $500 million fund. This might be common knowledge, because the U.S. has been positively blanketed with advertisements from lawyers hawking their services to those who want to pursue a case. From March to November 14, an estimated 167,429 Camp Lejeune ads have aired, some $98 million in advertising.
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