Numlock News: May 15, 2023 • Saturn, Gold, Giant Clams
By Walt Hickey
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 had a remarkable second outing at the box office, with ticket sales declining just 49 percent week over week, the third-best second weekend hold in Marvel history. That was good for $60.5 million domestically, good enough to bring its domestic total to $213 million and $528 million worldwide. In other beloved franchise sequels featuring iconic characters with jukebox needle drops, Book Club: The Next Chapter opened to a disappointing $6.5 million, but could see a little staying power as there’s not going to be much for the film’s target demographic for the next month.
Fanatics, the $31 billion colossus of the sports merchandising world, reached an agreement to buy PointsBet’s American operation in a $150 million deal. The company has exploded in value over the past several years, from a $4.5 billion valuation in August of 2017 that, following the investment in Lids in 2019, grew to $6.2 billion by August 2020, and then riding a boom in pandemic-era interest in trading cards, memorabilia and officially licensed merch hit $31 billion as of January. With the deal, the merch company will try to turn its contact list of 95 million sports fans into gamblers, yet another change to the culture of sports in the United States following the Supreme Court decision five years ago that killed a federal ban on sports wagering.
The biggest movie of the year so far, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, is hitting premium video on demand services after just a 41-day run in theaters. Universal is allowed to put movies into home release after just 31 days in cinemas, and across the board theatrical exclusive windows are getting shorter and shorter. Of the 22 wide releases so far of 2023, the average time spent in theaters before also appearing on premium video on-demand services was a mere 30 days. Of those, half — 11 films — were available to stream or rent within three weeks, while just five stayed exclusive to cinemas for more than 45 days, with John Wick: Chapter 4 sticking around for 60 days.
Research finds that giant clams also suffer bleaching events not unlike coral reefs, but often rebound quicker. Bleaching happens when a marine creature expels the colorful symbiotic zooxanthellae algae that lives among it and turns white, often in reaction to a warmer sea and the subsequent heat stress. When a giant clam loses its algae, it loses energy and nutrients the algae was providing through photosynthesis. They do recover, though; near Ko Man Nai Island in Thailand, 2010 saw a massive bleaching event, but 40 percent recovered their zooxanthellae over the following cooler months. A 1997-98 bleaching event in the South Pacific saw 95 percent of the 6,300 bleached clams recover.
A new Gallup survey of Americans’ perceptions of the best long-term investment saw significant shifts in what people think is actually valuable in the long haul, with an unexpected element making a comeback. The percentage who saw real estate as the best long-term investment dropped from 45 percent to just 34 percent, a steep decline. Declines were also seen in the percentage who think that stocks and mutual funds were best, dropping from 24 percent to 18 percent. No, rather than betting on the land, on companies and people making and doing stuff, the biggest gain was in rocks: The percentage who said gold was the best investment increased from 15 percent to 26 percent, a huge increase in the number of pessimistic people who would bet on a rock in lieu of people actually doing stuff in the economy, the best polling performance for the shiny rock-based portfolio since 2012.
A new study backs up the shocking conclusion made by scientists who studied the data from the Cassini spacecraft that Saturns rings in fact are only 10 million to 100 million years old, and are a relatively recent phenomenon. That 2019 analysis, based on Cassini’s 22 dives into the rings, also found that the rings may not be permanent, and may gradually vanish over the next 100 million years. The new study looked at the same data, and essentially looked at the dust that is feeding into the rings, and given the 163 grains that originated from outside the immediate vicinity of Saturn estimates that less than a gram of dust accumulates in each square foot of rings every year. That would back up the idea that Saturn’s rings have been gathering dust over a few hundred million years, confirming the conclusions of the 2019 study that the rings are far younger than 4.5 billion-year-old Saturn itself.
A report released last week pumps the brakes on the growth of the podcast ad business, with the Interactive Advertising Bureau reporting that total ad revenue for the podcasting business came to $1.8 billion in 2022, missing the $2.1 billion expectation. That also led the IAB to scale back some of its more long-term estimates, revising its $4.2 billion podcast market in 2024 down to a $3.2 billion market, and indicating the overall podcast ad business will come in under $4 billion by 2025. The 26 percent year-over-year growth in podcast ad revenue in 2022 is still excellent — well higher than the 19 percent growth in video ads and 4 percent growth in social media ads — but it’s a whole lot less than the 72 percent year-over-year growth seen in 2021. News, true crime and business podcasts all lost marketshare, while sports, society and culture, and comedy podcasts gained it.
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