Numlock News: January 17, 2023 • Skinamarink, VFX, MSG
By Walt Hickey
Avatar: The Way of Water continued its run at the box office with another $31.1 million in week five of its release, a hold that seems unquestionable until the new Ant-Man comes out at the end of February. The real story has been horror movies carving out a solid position at the box office, with two features thriving off word of mouth right now. One of them, M3gan, made $17.9 million in its second week, which is a 40 percent decline from its opening weekend, an incredible hold for a horror feature that would normally drop significantly more in week two. Way down in 11th place, with $746,000 from 692 theaters, is Skinamarink. That number seems low only until you hear the budget for this micro-budget viral horror movie was $15,000.
Sweden’s government is weighing an end to a decade-old requirement that restaurants obtain a license to allow patrons to dance. The new fight for Swedes’ right to party could save restaurants money, as currently applying for a permit incurs a fee north of 700 kroner, or $67. The Justice Minister, who I can only assume recently was moved by the film Föötlööse, argued that it’s unreasonable for the government to regulate dance.
In 1975, when modern visual effects emerged in Hollywood, only five out of the highest grossing films of the year required VFX, a figure that today stands at 90 percent of all films in release. The field is an instrumental part of modern filmmaking, but due to its comparative recency as an essential part of the filmmaking process its workers lack the union protections that the rest of the film industry enjoys as standard. There are 582 visual effects houses in the world, with anywhere from 31,000 to 117,000 workers active at any given moment, which is still only about a third as many workers as there is work needed to be done. This has made for backbreaking conditions, and workers are organizing: VFX-IATSE is aiming for 1,000 members by the fall of this year.
Of the roughly 80 billion land animals raised for food annually, 2 billion of them are exported while alive to other countries. Particularly in Europe, this makes a lot of sense, because some companies specialize in different kinds of livestock, some countries have a surplus of some animals — male calves born in dairy-centric Ireland, for example — and other countries in the area, like Libya, have a demand for live animals because of a lack of refrigeration infrastructure. The issue is that when you haul millions of animals by land and sea, the process can be awful for the welfare of those animals, and some countries are trying to rein in or regulate the process.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is already a smashing success, logging over 1.7 million calls in its first five months, which is almost a half-million more than the previous 10-digit number received in the same period of 2022. Lifeline responded to an additional 154,585 contacts in November of 2022 than it did in November of 2021, the wait time is down from 3 minutes to 36 seconds over the same period, and the number of abandoned calls is down from 18 percent to 12 percent. The switch from the 10-digit number to 988 and requisite system overhaul cost $1 billion in federal money, and some states are funding their program with small surcharges to cell phone bills to keep the performance high.
MSG Entertainment operates Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, and is being sued by ticket resellers and some other parties over its practices. In one of the more thin-skinned actions in the history of the live event space, MSG got caught deploying facial recognition software to identify and ban lawyers representing those clients from attending events. On Thanksgiving weekend, one lawyer who took her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to see the Rockettes was turned away, as have been lawyers who tried to catch concerts, Rangers games, even the Knicks in the rare mediocre season where they don’t completely suck. MSG has sent letters to lawyers at roughly 90 firms forcing the lawyers out, but three firms are suing and have led to preliminary injunctions under state anti-discrimination laws. One thing is while lawyers may not be a protected class, the law appears to be on their side: In the early 1900s theaters tried to categorically ban detested theater critics and in 1941 a law was passed to guarantee the right of anyone over the age of 21 to “legitimate theaters, burlesque theaters, music halls, opera houses, concert halls and circuses” with few exceptions.
You could call it a finding a gold mine, but that might actually be understating it: LKAB, Sweden’s iron ore miner, announced last week that it had discovered deposits of rare earth elements in Lapland. That’s seriously consequential for the European Union’s electrification efforts, as it’s a potential end of the bloc’s dependency on China for the rare earth elements necessary for electric vehicles and wind turbines. The company said they found more than 1 million tons of rare earth oxides, the largest deposit of its kind in Europe, but it might take a decade before mining gets underway.
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