Economist 7/28/16

  1. JUST like cooking a culinary masterpiece, making a hit Broadway show requires the right ingredients.On the whole musicals tend to be more lucrative than plays, especially if they are based on Disney movies. Using data from the Ulmer Scale, an index which rates Hollywood actors on their “bankability”, we found that having a big movie star boosted income tremendously.Factors outside the producer’s control also affect revenues. We found that productions which eventually win major Tony awards, performed better in their first year, though newspaper reviews seemed to matter less.shows tend to do better around Christmas and New Year. Even though its turnover has been artificially suppressed by its producers’ reluctance to raise ticket prices too sharply, “Hamilton” already has a strong claim as the most successful Broadway show of all time, and is on pace to shatter all existing records.
  2. Lawyers and indigenous leaders have long called for government action to cut Australia’s high rate of aboriginal youth imprisonment.The Northern Territory, a federal dependency, has one of the worst records. Indigenous people are almost a third of the territory’s population, compared with 3% for Australia as a whole. But they account for 96% of youngsters aged between 10 and 17 in detention.Nationwide, Amnesty says young indigenous Australians are 26 times more likely to be in detention on an average night than their non-indigenous counterparts. The high detention rates echo broader problems: indigenous Australians are poorer, unhealthier and do worse in school than their compatriots. 
  3. LUFTHANSA lowered its revenue forecast last week amid declining bookings, particularly on long-haul flights to Europe, citing “increasing political and economic uncertainties.” “Luxury Awaits Above the Clouds” is the title of Lufthansa’s Airbnb listing, the first flight to be offered on the site, according to Quartz , which first reported the curious manoeuvre. Simply posting it to Airbnb required some creative contortion on the part of the airline, which had to check all the boxes required for more typical Airbnb hosts.The listing, of course, is little more than a gimmick. Airbnb charges a hefty fee for bookings, and it’s hard to imagine anyone paying that when they can book for free on more traditional platforms.Still, it is not inconceivable that the model could change. As more travellers, and business travellers in particular, look to Airbnb instead of hotels, booking sites like Orbitz and Priceline that can package flights and lodging lose some of their appeal, since they don’t have options for private accommodation.
  4. 1MDB was launched in 2009, the year Mr Najib became prime minister of Malaysia. It was supposed to bring investment to Malaysia by forging partnerships with foreign firms. But by 2014 it was struggling to service debts of more than $11 billion. Questions about it multiplied last year when it was discovered that around $700m had entered Mr Najib’s bank accounts shortly before a close election in 2013. On July 20th America’s Justice Department began proceedings to seize more than $1 billion of assets, which it alleged had been purchased with funds siphoned out of the firm. It is the largest single action the department has ever launched.The goodies concerned include luxury properties, artworks by Van Gogh and Monet, and a jet, according to court filings. Authorities say 1MDB’s money was also spent on gambling and used to make the “Wolf of Wall Street”, a film about a high-living swindler starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was made by a production company co-founded by Riza Aziz, the stepson of Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak.
  5. Rajinikanth is no preening Bollywood star, but a balding 65-year old doyen of Tamil cinema who has acted in over 200 films, generally playing a lovable rogue. He is paid around $10m-12m a picture for this shtick.Whatever the storyline, Rajini’s movies tend to do well. His recent release ‘Kabali’, raked in $16m on its opening weekend in India and another $12.6m overseas, smashing box-office records. On Friday July 22nd, tickets fetched 1,500-5,000 rupees ($23-$75) on the black market. Indeed, for all his onscreen brio and dash, the bus conductor-turned-superstar is a courtly man off it. He wears a white dhoti, drives his own car, sports no makeup, donates money to charity and pleads with his fans not to treat him like God.

Economist 6/15/16

  1. From America to Eastern Europe, the use of apps to block online ads is widespread and growing, according to a 26-country survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, based in Oxford. In Poland 38% of people reported using ad-blockers, including most of those under 35. At least 20% use them in each of the 26 countries surveyed, except Japan and South Korea. Some news organisations are fighting back by forcing users with ad-blockers to pay for access. But the survey also found that very few people pay anything for online news—just 9% of people in English-speaking countries, where competition is strongest.
  2. The AR-15 has been the gun of choice in several other recent mass shootings in US. The National Rifle Association (NRA) muses that the “AR” could stand for “America’s rifle”, as the AR-15 is the nation’s most popular long gun, with as many as 10m units in circulation.Whereas its fully-automatic military cousin, the M16, shares its looks, the AR-15 shoots only one round per trigger-pull. It is thus a misnomer, gun-rights advocates say, to call the AR-15 a military-style “assault rifle”.Unlike fully automatic rifles, which can fire 750 to 900 rounds per minute and are available only to the armed forces, the AR-15 and its kin (sold by the millions to the general public) can muster only about 45 to 60.In 1994, Bill Clinton signed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a law restricting the manufacture of large-capacity magazines and a large range of semi-automatic firearms. But due to a ten-year sunset provision, the ban was lifted in 2004 and efforts to reinstate it—along with attempts to pass other gun-control measures—have failed.
  3. DUBAI, renowned across the world for its oil wealth, now wants to forge a reputation for the arts.Now, construction crews are putting the final touches on a striking building designed by Janus Rostock, a Danish architect. Featuring a protruding roof on top of a window-covered oval building, the edifice is the 2,000-seat Dubai Opera House.When a city (or city-state) like Dubai, with no history of Western classical music, builds one, it is major news to classical-music lovers and foreign policy analysts alike. It signals soft-power ambition, a desire to be taken seriously in the high-brow world of the arts. China, another nation not traditionally known for Wagner and Rossini, is in the midst of an opera-house construction boom that includes boldly designed opera houses in Harbin and Guangzhou.
  4. SHANGHAI DISNEYLAND, a theme park twice the size of California’s original Disneyland, officially opened on June 16th, 15 years since Chinese officials first hatched plans to get the industry’s runaway leader to build it.Even before the official opening, 1m punters had turned up for a look and tickets are sold out for weeks.The market in China is enormous and growing rapidly. Four Chinese firms were among the world’s ten biggest park operators by attendance in 2015; the year before only one made the list. Given the $5.5 billion invested by Disney and its Chinese partners, much hangs in the balance.Disney already runs four of the world’s five biggest theme parks and 55% of all fair-goers around the world visit one of its resorts. But in the past decade, Asia’s share of global theme park visits has swelled to 42% while North America’s has shrunk to 47%. With over 300m people living within three hours’ journey to Shanghai Disneyland, around the population of the entire United States, it is not hard to see why.
  5. Broadway has enjoyed a glorious 30-year run: the average production today collects five times what one did in 1985.Broadway revenues are constrained by the number of seats available: even “Hamilton” can only sell about 11,000 tickets a week. Because producers are typically very reluctant to raise prices sharply, weekly revenues tend to face a fairly hard ceiling at their venue size times a maximum ticket value (currently around $200). As a result, the revenues of shows that operate near capacity tend to cluster fairly closely together, even if demand for some of them is far greater than others.“Hamilton” looks set to become Broadway’s best-selling show ever.