Texas-Sized Popcorn

MoviePassed, Netflix Theaters, Solar Kernels, and Massive Gravity...

This past week feels like it has been roughly six weeks long. Kobe, Coronavirus, Impeachment, Brexit, about 300 other major developments that I can’t even recall right now. It’s enough for a Billy Joel song. Here’s to the next week simply being calmer. I mean, it only kicks off with the Super Bowl and then the Iowa Caucuses…

Movie Theaters


The long, tortuous plot of MoviePass has finally reached its inevitable conclusion. Here’s Todd Spangler with some details on the bankruptcy:

The company disclosed the move in an SEC filing dated Jan. 28, when Helios and Mathenson filed the petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code dissolves an entity, whose assets are sold off to repay creditors (unlike Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in which a company seeks to renegotiate with creditors).

In its bankruptcy filing, Helios and Matheson listed the estimated value of assets at between $1 million-$10 million and $60.9 million in total creditor claims.

Pretty interesting that it’s a chapter 7 and not chapter 11 filing — though not exactly surprising when you read that next paragraph — there’s no coming back. Oh and about that $1M - $10M asset value:

Helios and Matheson also owned Moviefone, which it bought from Verizon, and the company estimated the value of its trademarks at $4.38 million.

So it’s entirely possible that Helios and Matheson viewed the value of MoviePass itself to be negative. Finally, just to add insult to bankruptcy:

As disclosed in its bankruptcy filing, Helios and Matheson was being investigated by the SEC, the FTC, and attorneys general for New York and California. The company also is the target of several pending shareholder lawsuits.

What a total, total toilet bowl shitshow. I know people wanted this to work — who doesn’t want to buy dollars for pennies? — but MoviePass was problematic both for the movie industry itself and for business models in general.

“It’s very rare to see a hit movie that takes place on planet Earth any more.”

Speaking of movie theaters, Netflix chief content officer, Ted Sarandos was on stage at the Upfront Summit:

“The only thing standing in the way is the major chains,” Sarandos told moderator Jason Hirschhorn, CEO of the digital news site Redef. Of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Sarandos observed that with 40 million-plus Netflix households giving it at least a “start,” the audience for the roughly three and a half-hour film is “definitely as big as anything in the theater.”

There are two obvious solutions here. 1) Netflix can simply wait out the big theater chains as they continue to shoot themselves in the foot with their crappy experiences. 2) Netflix could buy one of the said chains. On the latter topic:

Sarandos pointed to Netflix’s recent purchase of the standalone Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles and long-term lease for Manhattan’s Paris Theater as signs of the company’s commitment to the film business. Netflix hopes to turn the Egyptian, which is not far from Netflix’s Hollywood offices, the into “a real hub for film culture” and haven for movie aficionados.

Netflix has been pretty clear that it doesn’t want to buy up a chain of movie theaters, but this more bespoke model makes a lot of sense simply given what their creators — folks like Scorsese — care about. Buying up a chain is likely a last resort. Instead, I’d bet on the larger Hollywood studios — which are all a part of giant conglomerates at this point — at least exploring buying back some of these theaters, after the Paramount Decree is officially thrown out.

Speaking of Scorsese:

Netflix also channeled the sentiments of Scorsese in observing that movies that rack up big box office these days tend to be superhero-driven tentpoles. Netflix sees a huge opportunity to reach viewers with the kind of adult-oriented dramas and lighter romantic comedies that are now less plentiful at the multiplexes. Scorsese caused a stir last November when he opined that Marvel’s recent string of superhero hits does not qualify as “cinema.”

Because Netflix has a different model, these types of movies can not only survive, but can thrive. Which pleases me greatly.

Whoa (Space)

Behold: The Sun as Massive Popcorn Kernels

Loren Grush on the image from the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope:

A telescope in Hawaii has produced the highest resolution video of the Sun’s surface ever created, revealing what looks like exploding bits of caramelized popcorn covering the star at the heart of our Solar System.

Each “kernel” in the picture is the size of Texas. Wild. Be sure to watch the video too!

Massive Gravity

Hannah Devlin on Imperial College professor Claudia de Rham’s ‘massive gravity’ theory (which could explain why universe expansion is accelerating):

“Change could be afoot. De Rham has pioneered a radical theory that could hold the key to why the universe is expanding faster and faster and explain the nature of dark energy. The theory, known as massive gravity, modifies Einstein’s general relativity, positing that the hypothetical particles (gravitons) that mediate the gravitational force themselves have a mass. In Einstein’s version, gravitons are assumed to be massless.”

“If gravitons have a mass, then gravity is expected to have a weaker influence on very large distance scales, which could explain why the expansion of the universe has not been reined in. “One possibility is that you may not need to have dark energy – or rather, gravity itself fulfils that role,” says De Rham.”

This is quite a divisive topic — see: “modifies Einstein’s general relativity” — as it’s obviously one that has been considered before, but has been shot down again and again. But sometimes timing is everything… Also:

“De Rham’s more recent work covers other aspects of gravity. She is interested in the speed of gravity, which has never been directly measured and which theory predicts could in some circumstances be faster than light. She is also investigating whether gravity, like light, moves at different speeds through different materials. If it does, gravitational rainbows would exist that might be viewable with gravitational wave telescopes.”

Just two more “holy shit” ideas…



Hard 8 — Rest in peach, Kobe.

Newsletters as Newspapers — Some thinking about newsletter consumption habits.

The Window Has Shut — Timing markets, fundraising, going public…

Speaking of Beautiful Space-y Images

Some pretty amazing visual representations of Slack’s shared channels shared by CEO Stewart Butterfield last month:

Pretty complex, huh? (Also: cool-looking.) This week, millions of messages will be posted by hundreds of thousands of users across a vast network of shared channels in 138 different countries around the world. But those summary numbers don’t really tell the whole story. So, let’s break it down.

The whole post is a masterclass in not only explaining something relatively complex, but making it sound (and look) exciting!