Numlock News: July 22, 2019 • Coffee, Cooking Shows, Safe Deposit Boxes
By Walt Hickey
The Mane Event
The Lion King made $185 million in North America, the largest-ever launch for a film rated PG and a record for Disney when you set aside Star Wars, Marvel, and the concept of inflation. It’s also the best-ever opening weekend in the month of July. The overall foreign total hit $346 million, $97.5 million of which is from China. For perspective, Aladdin opened to a mere $91.5 million earlier this year domestically and is still a pretty solid bet to finish in the billions. It’s a real shame though, as box office analysts projected this film would have made a trillion dollars if they hadn’t botched “Be Prepared.”
End of the Game
Through sheer force of will, Avengers: Endgame passed $2.7902 billion at the global box office on Saturday, formally eclipsing the $2.7897 billion record set by Avatar ten years ago (you know, when it would take $1.19 in 2019 dollars to equal the buying power of $1 in 2009). Now that the dust has settled, Endgame has become the highest grossing film globally and the second-highest grossing film in North America after Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If this slight is what it takes to make world-renowned oceanographer James Cameron finally start focusing on those long-promised sequels, I’m all for it.
High-brow coffee is more popular than ever, but among producers it’s been a time of crisis. Low prices, robust competition from Brazil, a fungal disease known as leaf rust, and succession issues constitute a perfect storm for small growers in coffee-producing regions. In Colombia, 68 percent of regional coffee leaders said there were no young people interested in getting into the business. The average age of a coffee farmer is now 54.9, up from 53 three years ago. Brazil produces about 54.5 million 60-kilogram bags, up from about 40 million 10 years ago, and prices are at around $1.05 per pound, the lowest in a decade.
Safe Deposit Boxes
In the U.S., there are 25 million safe deposit boxes, caches that operate in a grey zone where there’s little the bank is legally obligated to do in the event of a mishap or loss of assets. Realistically, crime isn’t the big deal movies make it out to be — of 19,000 bank robberies over the past 5 years, only 44 bothered to burgle the safe-deposit boxes — and nowadays banks rarely even bother installing them because they’re such a hassle. An estimated half of them are empty, and with bank branch locations down 10 percent in the past 10 years, access is dwindling, and relocating or evicting boxes at doomed locations is an annoying amount of work. Banks also cap liability for boxed contents — $500 for Wells Fargo boxes, 500 times rent for Citigroup, $25,000 for JPMorgan Chase — so whether you’re trying to hide an enormous pile of bearer bonds, secure a big pile of lost Romanov jewels, or simply claim a safe place to hide the documentation of the life you abandoned before settling in a small town upstate until the heat dies down, there’s probably better places for your business.
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The appetite for food television is insatiable, with more than 30 food-related series expected to premiere over the next year to add to the about 75 already in production. That’s on top of the veritable dozens of former titles still airing, because much like a slow-cooked rack of spare ribs marinated in a thyme and rosemary red wine sauce and served over a celeriac puree with a tart arugula salad, cooking shows tend to keep fairly well for some time after their initial presentation. They can be seriously lucrative: Fox makes north of $140 million in ad revenue from the four Gordon Ramsay shows it airs. Moreover, most food television is made on the cheap. Sure, the most expensive competition shows run $1 million for an hour, but some Food Network shows cost less than $200,000 per episode, much less than the industry average of $400,000 per hour.
Japan lags behind peer countries when it comes to gender rights: in the workforce, women are only 4 percent of managers and 2 percent of seats on boards of directors. In politics, women are only in 10 percent of seats in the lower house. The inequity extends even to marital law; currently the law bans married couples from having different last names, which is an enormous encumbrance for women who have established themselves in the workplace. A government survey shows 42.5 percent of adults support changing the law, which is up 7 percentage points in five years, while 29.3 percent oppose change. The age gap here is breathtaking: 52.3 percent of those aged 70 to 79 oppose the change compared to 13.6 percent of those aged 30 to 39.
Airlines have been spending serious money upgrading their in-flight safety videos. Once a fairly routine and mandatory safety regime, today’s carriers are cranking up the production values and using the FAA-mandated sessions to both lighten the mood and plug the brand. Delta, United, and American all use the format. United puts out a new one every 18 months, with the latest linked to a Spider-Man promotion. While this may seem like a waste of money, it’s worth recalling that an in-flight video broadcast for a year would be viewed about 100 million times. When put that way, sure, bring in someone to punch up the writing. What’s more, they work: aviation research shows funny safety videos are moderately better at getting their points across than ordinary (boring) ones.
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