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Will Movie Theaters Disappear? Summer Blockbusters face Coronavirus Fears and Straight to VOD Competition

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Universal Studios and AMC theater chain at war over a potential straight to video future.

Throughout the history of the movie theater business, it has often survived desperate times, successfully adapting and staying in business during the Great Depression, two World Wars, the rise of television as competition, and, so far, even the recent streaming boom. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the entertainment industry has likely met its match, and the exhibition sector is getting hit the hardest.

For the first time since the 1918 pandemic, when theaters in San Francisco alone lost $400,000 per week while closed in what we now call a “lock-down”, theaters across the globe are being forced to barricade their doors. Adhering to social distancing precautions, government officials and theater owners alike are barring the possibility of people gathering in close proximity at the cinema.

Clearly, averting these gatherings is the responsible thing to do during the coronavirus outbreak, but several weeks into the lockdown, many theater workers were struggling to make ends meet. Now, exhibitors are even losing the cooperation of studios.

Currently quarantines are being gradually phased out, with social distancing procedures being used for “non-essential” retail, restaurants and in some cases movie theaters in the first wave of relaxation. Next would be Schools, parks and other public gatherings. Later, in a third phase, concerts and sporting events would be sanctioned, assuming that there is no second wave of cases to cause a reversal back to strict lock-down quarantines again. That is, at this point a big “if” as some states are already should surges in the number of new cases.

Just as restaurants could face financial hardship if they must maintain 50% or even 30% capacity to adhere to social distancing guidelines, a half-empty theater is an anathema in the movie business and could kill off theatrical releases altogether if required for years.

Part of the reason why theater chains have been able to persevere for so long is because major Hollywood studios see the continuing economic value of putting a movie exclusively on the big screen for at least a few weeks. The theatergoing experience allows studios to profit off of ticket sales before making their products available on the far more modestly priced home video markets. At least, this is how the process has conventionally taken place.

If congregating for any reason is too dangerous it could render Hollywood theatrical releases virtually extinct

Now, with so many theaters closed, it makes almost no sense for movies to even attempt theatrical releases during the pandemic. For a few titles (mostly the flashiest blockbuster-style movies like “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Fast 9,” or “Black Widow”) studios have pushed back release dates, knowing that they will eventually turn a profit at the box office despite delays. However, for some more modestly budgeted movies, production companies have contemplated (and in some cases executed) forgoing theatrical runs altogether and releasing the movies straight to video on-demand.

Bypassing theatrical runs has obviously been a possibility for decades, and the perspective has gained significant momentum in the past few years as direct-to-streaming titles have gained legitimacy. If the practice became widespread, however, this would be a nightmare for the theater industry. Because the pandemic is likely to prevent public gatherings for months or even longer, the shift towards this business model is rapidly becoming unavoidable.

Most notably, Universal Studios recently released “Trolls: World Tour” in theaters and on-demand at the same time. To the shock of theater owners everywhere, the film has reportedly made over $50 million on-demand, perhaps exceeding box office expectations and proving that a movie can make huge profits while eschewing the box office and going straight to this direct-to-home-video model.

Universal’s choice to take this unconventional path with “Trolls” led to the studio butting heads with AMC Theaters. AMC President Adam Aron penned a scathing open letter to Universal’s Chairman, claiming, in a threat that sounds like a bluff, that the chain would never play another Universal movie in any of its theaters. That’s a bold claim considering that Universal releases all DreamWorks, “Fast & Furious,” and “Jurassic Park” titles, all of which would bring in major numbers for AMC.

Worst case scenario, however, AMC won’t even need to worry about this, for Universal amongst other studios will see the success of the direct-to-home-video model and replicate it, significantly decreasing, perhaps even nullifying theaters’ essentialness in the release process.

Other movies that were already out when theaters started closing such as Universal’s “The Invisible Man,” Warner Brother’s “Birds Of Prey,” and Pixar’s “Onward” were expedited to on-demand. They are all now on Amazon’s Prime Cinema platform, available for rent at the theater-ticket-like-price of $19.99. The cost is definitely higher than a standard rental, but when watching with the whole family, it is cheaper to view these movies at home than each individual paying for a separate movie theater ticket.

That is, if people could even choose go to the theaters when they wanted to take the risk.

The world is changing fast and it is unlikely if things will ever go back to “normal”

Despite the success of Prime Cinema rentals and “Trolls: World Tour” on-demand, studios cannot ignore the desperation and unique extremes of the times. People are in a vacuum and home entertainment is the only kind of entertainment available to them. If consumers had the option of going to the movies, perhaps the home-video model would not prove as successful.

Essentially, the entertainment industry is undergoing a massive non-consensual experiment, but the variables are erratic and irreplicable. There is no telling how these movies might’ve done at the box office if the box office still existed.

When theaters open up their doors again, studios might realize that people still appreciate going to the cinema and that continuing theatrical releases as usual is the only financially sensible option. Of course the level of fear that people will still feel, even after governments sound the “all clear”, is also an unknown.

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AMC and Cinemark both hope to have their doors open by mid-June or July. Meanwhile, the states of Georgia and Texas will be amongst the first states to allow theaters to continue business. Returning to normalcy will not be simple, though. Just because state governments allow theaters to reopen does not mean that they have to. Plus, many theaters will probably want to take precautions with their crowds, allowing a limited number of people in at a time. The movies themselves will also probably be in limited supply, as it wouldn’t make sense for a movie to get a theatrical release if theaters are only open in a couple states.

If theaters were open today, we would currently be entering a huge summer blockbuster season with “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Fast 9,” and “Black Widow” leading the charge alongside Disney’s “Mulan,” Pixar’s “Soul,” and Warner Brothers’ Christopher Nolan directed “Tenant.” Likewise, we’d be seeing a whole lot of indie content pushed up through the festivals such as South by Southwest and Cannes— the former getting cancelled back in March and the latter pending cancellation.

God forbid the need for precautionary measures is still as extreme through the end of the year, but if the entertainment industry in still in the same situation come winter, then the closures, cancellations, and postponements will collide with the Awards Season. Already the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences has stated that a theatrical run is no longer a requirement for Oscar nominees, breaking down a barrier that has been a point of contention over the past few years. As of right now, it is unclear if this waived rule will remain in perpetuity after its adoption during this highly abnormal year.

Regardless, those who own and work in movie theaters remain on the edges of their collective seats. While nobody in the entertainment industry is currently in an ideal situation, the theaters are clearly the most vulnerable; and that threatens the survival of the most hallowed of hollywood traditions.

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Crypto

Lloyd Ostertag aka Elon Musk aka The DogeFather on SNL – full clip

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Above: photo via Twitter credit: Mac Rumors

Was it really a knock on Crypto, or was there a hidden plug in the details?

Elon’s big night in NYC was awkward, as expected and he should probably keep his day job. The highlight, for pretty much everyone on earth (not sure about mars), was the Weekend Update segment where Musk appeared as Lloyd Ostertag, a crypto “expert” dressed in professorial garb.

Watch the clip below, and you will notice that, although the punchline was a dis’ on Doge, saying, or rather “admitting” that it’s a “hustle”, a detailed listening to Musk’s entire speech reveals some gems that go in the opposite direction, for those that follow crypto, and, well, money.

Elon-Musk-Read-More

The dollar is just as real (or unreal) as DogeCoin

In a comedy skit looking like it was designed to avoid scrutiny by the SEC, the writers at SNL, presumably with Musk’s help, decided to put a negative spin on both mentions of DOGE during the show. First, in an exchange with his Mom, Maye, Musk sheepishly grins and nods after she says she “hopes it won’t be DogeCoin” referring to her Mother’s day gift.

He eventually capitulates and, after saying that DogeCoin is “about as real as that dollar” he “concedes” that “it’s a hustle”.

Elon Musk, as LLoyd Ostertag on Saturday Night Live, May 8th 2021

Later, in the “Weekend Update” segment Musk plays “Lloyd Ostertag” who calls himself the “DogeFather” – and the anchors ask repeatedly, in a somewhat dismissive tone, “what is DogeCoin?”. The gag is that he, as Ostertag, eventually capitulates and, after saying that DogeCoin is “about as real as that dollar”, “concedes” that “it’s a hustle”.

Read More UFO Viral Footage Article

While the bulk of his appearance in the segment does reconfirm and support his actual views, in a smirking and slightly deprecating way, as Ostertag”, it also underscores a deeper truth that cryptocurrencies are “as real as the dollar” (some would say more real). However, in the end, the punchline is a negative way to sweep all of that away, with a nod to Buffet, Munger and the SEC, thereby toeing the line and insuring himself one less courtroom headache.

DOGE has the last laugh? Is Crypto dead? Doubtful…

As of Sunday, May 9th, DOGE is hovering around .51 cents. The Muskian peak was .74 cents on May 7th. This means that, although there was a decline on the “news” that Musk would not break the SEC rules by blatantly pumping DogeCoin on live national TV, the coin is still up approximately 33% for the week, 734% for the last month and 19,446% for the last year. And, according to Elon Musk, aka Lloyd Ostertag, aka the DogeFather, it is “about as real” as that dollar in your pocket.

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Breaking News

Was Elon Musk’s weak dis’ on SNL the real reason for DogeCoin’s Drop?

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Is any chosen form of “money” any more of a “hustle” than another?

Elon’s big night in NYC turned out, not surprisingly, to be less than climactic for the Shiba Inu meme crypto coin DOGE as it was seen sinking during the show and on Sunday. A wise man once said “correlation is not causation” and yet can anyone or anything be responsible for the drop in the high flying cryptocoin other than Elon and his Mom?

Elon-Musk-Read-More

In stock market lingo this was what’s known as a “date certain” event. Meaning, the entire world knew that Elon would be on SNL and would, one way or another, mention DOGE, given that he has been endlessly associated with the coin in the media, and it’s a “joke” that has to be told, if only to prove to the SEC that he is really just joking. “Look guys, I am literally on a comedy show talking about this”, he seems to be saying.

“Buy the Rumor, Sell the News”

For good measure, and to avoid scrutiny by the oversight body, he, and the writers at SNL, decided to put a negative spin on both mentions of DOGE during the show. First, in an exchange with his Mom, Maye, Musk sheepishly grins and nods after she says she “hopes it won’t be DogeCoin” referring to her Mother’s day gift.

He eventually capitulates and, after saying that DogeCoin is “about as real as that dollar” he “concedes” that “it’s a hustle”.

Elon Musk, as LLoyd Ostertag on Saturday Night Live, May 8th 2021

Later, in a sketch with 100% focus on the crypto coin, the “Weekend Update” segment features Musk playing “Lloyd Ostertag” who calls himself the “DogeFather” – who is asked repeatedly “what is DogeCoin”. He eventually capitulates and, after saying that DogeCoin is “about as real as that dollar” he “concedes” that “it’s a hustle”.

While the bulk of his appearance in the segment does reconfirm and support his actual views, in a smirking and slightly deprecating way, as Ostertag”, it also underscores a deeper truth that cryptocurrencies are “as real as the dollar” (some would say more real). However, in the end, the punchline is a negative way to sweep away all of that, with a nod to Buffet, Munger and the SEC, toeing the line and insuring himself one less courtroom headache.

Was it the Day of reckoning for Dogecoin? Possible but doubtful

As of Sunday, May 9th, DOGE is hovering around .51 cents. The Muskian peak was .74 cents on May 7th. This means that, although there was a decline on the “news” that Musk would not break the SEC rules by blatantly pumping DogeCoin on live national TV, the coin is still up approximately 33% for the week, 734% for the last month and 19,446% for the last year. And, according to Elon Musk, aka Lloyd Ostertag, aka the DogeFather, it is “about as real” as that dollar in your pocket.

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Books

Best Under-the-radar Books from Our Research

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Above:Photo Credit / Olivier Chatel on Unsplash

Sometimes, lost in all the hype and hoopla are gems that just don’t quite make it into the forefront of the mainstream. We make it our mission to keep our eyes open and be on the hunt for just those kinds of gems. Perhaps it’s an idea, or a thread of meaning, or maybe just something that is boiling under the surface about to explode like a geyser in Yellowstone Park.

Here are a few books, and the idea of a physical book itself is also one of those overlooked genius things that seems to slip past us everyday, and these are just the kind that only the eagle-eyed may have noticed previously. To make it easier they are featured front and center, below, along with descriptions, provided courtesy of the Bookshop, and some links for a variety of options to purchase.

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

Infinite Powers Book image
buy at Bookshop

From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus–how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.

Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number–infinity–to tackle real-world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.

Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age

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Antitrust enforcement is one of the most pressing issues facing America today–and Amy Klobuchar, the widely respected senior senator from Minnesota, is leading the charge. This fascinating history of the antitrust movement shows us what led to the present moment and offers achievable solutions to prevent monopolies, promote business competition, and encourage innovation.

In a world where Google reportedly controls 90 percent of the search engine market and Big Pharma’s drug price hikes impact healthcare accessibility, monopolies can hurt consumers and cause marketplace stagnation. Klobuchar–the much-admired former candidate for president of the United States–argues for swift, sweeping reform in economic, legislative, social welfare, and human rights policies, and describes plans, ideas, and legislative proposals designed to strengthen antitrust laws and antitrust enforcement.

Klobuchar writes of the historic and current fights against monopolies in America, from Standard Oil and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to the Progressive Era’s trust-busters; from the breakup of Ma Bell (formerly the world’s biggest company and largest private telephone system) to the pricing monopoly of Big Pharma and the future of the giant tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

She begins with the Gilded Age (1870s-1900), when builders of fortunes and rapacious robber barons such as J. P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt were reaping vast fortunes as industrialization swept across the American landscape, with the rich getting vastly richer and the poor, poorer.

She discusses President Theodore Roosevelt, who, during the Progressive Era (1890s-1920), busted the trusts, breaking up monopolies; the Clayton Act of 1914; the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914; and the Celler-Kefauver Act of 1950, which it strengthened the Clayton Act. She explores today’s Big Pharma and its price-gouging; and tech, television, content, and agriculture communities and how a marketplace with few players, or one in which one company dominates distribution, can hurt consumer prices and stifle innovation.

The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age

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From the man who coined the term net neutrality, author of The Master Switch and The Attention Merchants, comes a warning about the dangers of excessive corporate and industrial concentration for our economic and political future.

We live in an age of extreme corporate concentration, in which global industries are controlled by just a few giant firms — big banks, big pharma, and big tech, just to name a few.

But concern over what Louis Brandeis called the curse of bigness can no longer remain the province of specialist lawyers and economists, for it has spilled over into policy and politics, even threatening democracy itself. History suggests that tolerance of inequality and failing to control excessive corporate power may prompt the rise of populism, nationalism, extremist politicians, and fascist regimes.

In short, as Wu warns, we are in grave danger of repeating the signature errors of the twentieth century. In The Curse of Bigness, Columbia professor Tim Wu tells of how figures like Brandeis and Theodore Roosevelt first confronted the democratic threats posed by the great trusts of the Gilded Age–but the lessons of the Progressive Era were forgotten in the last 40 years. He calls for recovering the lost tenets of the trustbusting age as part of a broader revival of American progressive ideas as we confront the fallout of persistent and extreme economic inequality.

Silent Spring (50th Anniversary Edition)

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The classic that launched the environmental movement

Rarely does a single book alter the course of history, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did exactly that.

The outrcrythat followed its publication in 1962 forced the banning of DDT and spurred the revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.

Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement.

This is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century. The introduction, by the acclaimed biographer Linda Lear, tells the story of Carson’s courageous defense of her truths in the face of a ruthless assault form the chemical industry following the publication of Silent Spring and before her untimely death.

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Entertainment

Netflix’s latest Thriller ‘Awake’ – Wipes out the ability to Sleep

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Insomnia plays the #1 villain

Above: Official Trailer for Awake / Netflix

The next global catastrophe movie is coming to Netflix, its called “Awake” and the premise has quite the spin. This apocalyptic thriller makes surviving even more difficult because the Earth’s population no longer has the ability to sleep, which leads to mass hallucinations, disorientation, and ultimately death.

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“Awake” hopes to garner the same success as the Netflix original film “Bird Box”, which was a watch-at-the-end-of-your-seat apocalyptic horror/thriller where upon one glimpse of something terrifying would drive a person to deadly violence. The Netflix film released back in 2018 starred Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich.

The cast includes: Gina Rodriguez as Jill, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Shamier Anderson, and Ariana Greenblatt as Matilda, the young girl who may hold the key to figuring out the film’s mystery. The film will debut on the Netflix streaming platform starting June 8, 2021.

Read More UFO Viral Footage Article

According to a press release by Netflix, the summary of the film is as follows:

After a sudden global event wipes out all electronics and takes away humankind’s ability to sleep, chaos quickly begins to consume the world. Only Jill (played by Gina Rodriguez), an ex-soldier with a troubled past, may hold the key to a cure in the form of her own daughter. The question is, can Jill safely deliver her daughter and save the world before she herself loses her mind.

Directed by Mark Raso known for his work on “Kodachrome”.

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