Numlock News: February 18, 2020 • PlayStation 5, Moviefone, Vinyl
By Walt Hickey
A judge has ordered that New York City must revoke the building permit for 200 Amsterdam Avenue, a nearly complete 668-foot condo tower that’s 52 stories high. The developers have been ordered to remove as many as 20 floors from the top of the — I must repeat — nearly complete building, as the judge found the air rights may have been obtained inappropriately from a number of tenuously adjacent lots. There are intended to be 112 luxury apartments in the building, which would add to the 7,727 condo units already in Manhattan that have come to market since 2015, of which 3,695 still remain unsold. Though rare, there’s precedent: in 1991, a developer was ordered to cut a completed 31-story building to 19 stories. On one hand, it’s nuts that they’re going to have to remove housing from New York, but on the other hand if developers get away with treating the Upper West Side like a Minecraft game it’s time to shut it down.
Vinyl outsold CDs last year for the first time in decades, but there’s a serious problem on the horizon for the format that accounted for 26 percent of physical music sales. Earlier this month, there was a fire at the Apollo/Transco lacquer manufacturing factory in Banning, California that destroyed all the of company’s equipment. Apollo/Transco produced 80 percent of the global supply of blank lacquer discs, which are aluminum discs with a thin coating of lacquer. Those blanks get grooves etched into them, and then are used at pressing plants to make all the vinyl records. Apollo/Transco was one of two companies on the planet still making the discs, and so MDC in Japan is the last remaining producer of the lacquer blanks, and Adament, also in Japan, is now the last producer of the ruby and sapphire styluses used to carve the music into the blanks. The long and short of it is you should expect way fewer new records distributed on vinyl in the immediate future, fellow dorks.
Sonic the Hedgehog blasted past expectations this weekend, making $58 million over Friday through Sunday and a grand total of $70 million over the entirety of the four-day weekend. That beats the $54 million opening of Pokémon Detective Pikachu that held the record for biggest opening for an adaptation of a video game. Meanwhile, Bong Joon Ho’s Best Picture-winning Parasite exploded in the weekend after its Oscar win, making $6.8 million over the four-day frame to lift its box office by 234 percent, the largest post-Oscar bump in a decade. Compared to a year ago, the domestic box office is up 8 percent.
Moviefone was a telephone number that you could call to tell you what showtimes were available, according to an episode of Seinfeld I streamed on Netflix once. Bought by AOL for $388 million in 1999, fortunes have changed for the hotline: it’s incidentally owned by Helios and Matheson, the radioactive waste site at the center of which is MoviePass, which wiped out the business and drove it into Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Moviefone can be yours, if you want such a thing. The estimated current book value of the concept of Moviefone is $4,379,504, per the bankruptcy filing. This is, by the way, by far one of the most valuable assets in the Helios and Matheson portfolio of companies, as the whole kit and caboodle has under $10 million in total assets.
This coming holiday season, Microsoft and Sony will release their next generation of consoles, the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. But while the hardware is nearly done, the pricing is still going to be a sticking point, and Sony is reportedly waiting for Microsoft to make the first move in what should be a pitched battle for gaming supremacy. The PS5 reportedly cost $450 per unit to manufacture, and mass production is set to begin soon. The PS4 cost $399 at launch, and was estimated to cost $381 to manufacture; keeping the same margins, the PS5 would have to cost $470ish, which would be tough to stomach. Hardware often moves at a tight margin in the video game business, with most of the profit coming from subscription access to online gaming and their cut of the game price.
Manchester City has been banned from the Champions League for two seasons following the discovery that their owner had allegedly been pumping money into the organization through a straw sponsor. The soccer club has been fined £25 million as well. Basically, the amount of money that soccer team owners can pump into their teams to cover losses is restricted, and the amount of money they can spend on player wages is limited by how much revenue they bring in, which sponsorships boost. City is sponsored by Etihad, the airline of the United Arab Emirates, to the tune of £67.5 million per year. But it turns out that City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, was personally putting up the vast majority of that money, with only £8 million actually funded by Etihad during 2015-16. Manchester City is disputing the judgement and will appeal.
Right now, over 30 states have sued the companies that distributed opioids en masse to the American populace, and for a while it appeared they were nearing a settlement. Three wholesalers — McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc. — offered $18 billion over 18 years to settle the litigation, but a letter from the attorneys general for 21 states, Puerto Rico and D.C. have in a new letter rejected that offer as too small, and reportedly are instead targeting somewhere between $22 billion and $32 billion. This is not the end-all-be-all, though: over 2,000 lawsuits from thousands of city and country governments are attempting to get recompense from the dealers.
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