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No ‘going back’ to old way of movie watching

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No 'going back' to old way of movie watching

Disney Chief Executive Bob Chapek said the pandemic has likely permanently narrowed the window for movies to play only in theaters.

Pre-pandemic, cinemas depended on an exclusive 90-day window to screen films before they were made available to home distribution channels, such as pay TV and streaming services. But now, studios are tinkering with that timeframe, either shortening it or doing away with it altogether.

“The consumer is probably more impatient than they’ve ever been before, particularly since now they’ve had the luxury of an entire year of getting titles at home pretty much when they want them,” Chapek said late Monday at a virtual conference hosted by Morgan Stanley.

“I’m not sure there’s going back,” he continued. “But we certainly don’t want to do anything like cut the legs off a theatrical exhibition run.”

He added that customers don’t have “tolerance” for the months-long period after a movie is in theaters and before it is available to stream.

“It’s just sort of sitting there, gathering dust,” he said.

Since the pandemic has shuttered or reduced the capacity of movie theaters, Hollywood studios have all reevaluated their release strategies.

Paramount and Universal have either shrunk or announced plans to shrink the usual window from 74 days to more like 30 or 45. And recently, Warner Bros. decided to concurrently stream its full slate of  2021 films on HBO Max for one month after they premiere in theaters. 

Disney, which controls up to half of the box office, has taken a cautious approach, evaluating each film’s release strategy and eventual debut on its service, Disney+.

Chapek said that a middle path — the “Premier Access,” or the simultaneous deployment of streaming and theaters — would remain a distribution option for the foreseeable future. For example, animated feature “Raya and the Last Dragon” will go out via that method on Friday, costing $30 to subscribers to Disney+.

The CEO underscored the importance of Disney’s massive box office appeal, noting that in 2019 it grossed $11 billion.

“That is a big deal to us, and that will continue to be a big deal to us,” he said, but added that at the same time, “we realize that this is a very fluid situation.”

Since its launch in November 2019, Disney+ has logged almost 100 million subscribers in several dozen countries and is projected to clear 200 million over the next three years. Chapek said the fact that 50 percent of its subscribers globally do not have kids was a key driver and an unexpected one.

“What we didn’t realize was the non-family appeal that a service like Disney+ would have,” he said. “That is the big difference.”

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

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Soho House club chain reportedly files for New York IPO

Soho House — the London-based group of posh private clubs — is planning to go public across the pond, a new report says.

The British company filed confidential paperwork with the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week to list itself on the New York Stock Exchange at a valuation of more than $3 billion, the UK’s Sky News reported Thursday.

The filing comes about three years after the iconic chain last mulled plans for an IPO in 2018, according to reports from the time.

The latest bid has been in the works since at least February, when The Times of London reported that Soho House had hired Wall Street stalwarts JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley as it looked to take advantage of the frothy US stock market.

The company raised a batch of private funding last summer but decided to pursue more capital through the public market as it expands, according to Sky News.

Soho House declined to comment Thursday.

Soho House runs 27 clubs in 10 countries, including three in New York City, along with event venues and a group of co-working spaces dubbed “Soho Works.

The chain’s business has reportedly held up through the coronavirus crisis. Just about 10,000 of its 110,000 members — whose ranks include Prince Harry and supermodel Kate Moss — canceled their memberships even as the pandemic shuttered its venues, the Financial Times reported last year.

While Soho House shares its name with the London neighborhood where its first club opened in 1995, the company is mostly owned by billionaire American investor Ron Burkle.

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

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Elon Musk says he supports COVID vaccines after questioning safety

Tesla chief Elon Musk expressed support for COVID-19 vaccines despite previously raising questions about their safety and saying he wouldn’t get the jab himself.

The world’s second-richest man tried to clear up his vaccine views on Twitter after drawing ire last month for his vocal skepticism about two-dose regimens.

“To be clear, I do support vaccines in general & covid vaccines specifically,” Musk tweeted Wednesday. “The science is unequivocal.”

The 49-year-old electric-car tycoon sparked controversy last month by saying there was “some debate” about the safety of the second of two shots people must get to complete their Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations.

Musk claimed there had been “quite a few negative reactions” to the second doses as he encouraged elderly and immunocompromised people to take the vaccines.

While allergic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine have been more frequent after the second dose than the first, they’re still rare overall with just 4.5 incidents reported for every million doses administered, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show.

Musk acknowledged Wednesday that allergic reactions happen “in very rare cases,” adding that they’re “easily addressed with an EpiPen.”

In September, the Tesla “Technoking” told The New York Times that neither he nor his family would get a vaccine because “I’m not at risk for COVID, nor are my kids.”

Musk ended up contracting what he called a “moderate case” of the virus in November, comparing his symptoms to a “minor cold.”

In response to a Twitter reply, Musk indicated that he decided not to get a vaccine because someone else could benefit more from the shot given that he already had some immunity to COVID.

Last month wasn’t the first time Musk has stoked controversy with his opinions on the pandemic.

He wrongly predicted last year that there would be “probably close to zero new cases” in the US by the end of April 2020 and called coronavirus lockdown measures “fascist” after fighting to keep Tesla’s California factory open.

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

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744,000 filed in stubborn increase

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits stubbornly jumped again last week even amid hopes that the labor market was getting back on track, the feds said Thursday.

Last week’s 744,000 initial jobless claims brought the total for the COVID-19 pandemic to about 79 million — a number more than triple the size of North Korea’s population.

New filings have ticked up for two consecutive weeks after dropping below the pre-coronavirus record of 695,000 in mid-March.

The latest total once again defied the predictions of economists, who expected 690,000 claims last week as vaccinations added fuel to the nation’s economic reopening, according to Wrightson ICAP.

“The biggest reason to temper optimism is a negative turn in the course of the pandemic, including new variants” of the coronavirus, Bloomberg economist Eliza Winger said.

Weekly jobless claims have bounced up and down in recent weeks while struggling to stay below the pre-pandemic record after a year of painfully high readings.

The four-week moving average, which smooths out the volatility, also ticked up to 723,750 a week after reaching its lowest level since March 2020, when the pandemic first gutted the American economy.

The latest US Department of Labor data came a week after a blowout jobs report that showed the economy adding 916,000 jobs in March.

“To put this week’s level of claims in perspective, a year ago this shocking number topped 6 million,” said Mark Hamick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It wasn’t until August that it consistently stayed below 1 million. So, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

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