Posts tagged with "The Wall Street Journal"

The new ‘Top Gun’ will need mighty wings

May 23, 2022

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, “Top Gun” fans should be flying high. Paramount Pictures’ “Top Gun: Maverick” makes its debut next weekend—almost exactly 36 years after the original movie first hit theaters, reports The Wall Street Journal.

It also might be one of the most delayed movies of the pandemic era, having seen its release date move four times since April 2020. But the studio seems to have picked its final landing spot well; the domestic box office has hit about $2.3 billion so far this year, propelled by blockbusters like “The Batman” and “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Both films scored among the highest opening weekends of their respective franchises—even when compared with prepandemic releases, according to Box Office Mojo.

Despite all the trappings of a blockbuster in its own right, though, the new “Top Gun” is still risky in the COVID era, the Journal says. The domestic box office is trending more than 40% below its prepandemic level. Those films that have worked mostly come from established franchises in the superhero genre. That creates uncertain prospects for a movie with a single predecessor that came out during the Cold War. Even young teens who loved the first “Top Gun” are pushing 50 now—a demographic that has proven somewhat reluctant to return to movie theaters.

Still, that one movie was a big deal. The original “Top Gun” was the top-grossing film of 1986 and became a cultural touchstone, firmly establishing Tom Cruise as one of Hollywood’s most bankable leading actors. Its total inflation-adjusted domestic haul of nearly $438 million made it the highest-grossing movie until the first “Batman” came out three years later, according to box-office data site The Numbers.

Epectations aren’t quite as high this time, but they are close. Shawn Robbins of Boxoffice Pro, which makes projections for U.S. theatrical exhibitors, estimates “Top Gun: Maverick” will range between $280 million to $395 million in total domestic box office. That would put the movie solidly in the top-five projected grossing films for the summer; projections for the new “Dr. Strange” and “Jurassic World Dominion,” coming out in mid-June, are currently higher.

Paramount Global, the recently renamed parent of the namesake studio, is expected to see theatrical revenue jump 71% year over year, to about $229 million in the second quarter—the segment’s highest since the third quarter of 2019, according to consensus estimates from FactSet.

And analysts expect U.S. theater chains AMC Entertainment and Cinemark to report combined admission revenue topping $1 billion for the second quarter—another postpandemic high.

Can the new “Top Gun” hit that target? Yes, the Journal says—provided the movie has appeal beyond the Gen-X crowd that made the first one such a hit. According to a recent survey by Wedbush Securities, more than half of those aged 45 and up haven’t been to a movie theater over the past year, compared with just over 20% of those between 18 and 24. But the same survey found nearly 70% of respondents in the 45-55 age category planned to attend a movie this year, with even higher numbers in younger age brackets.

Appealing to a wide audience in 2022 requires the new “Top Gun” to keep the charm of the original while losing some of its more dated elements. Early reviews suggest that it has, with many calling the new film superior to the first and praising the aerial shots and other visual effects that were created largely without computers.

And Cruise, who turns 60 in July, has done well keeping himself in front of younger movie audiences. His “Mission: Impossible” franchise, alone, has totaled nearly $3.6 billion in global box office revenue to date, with two more installments currently in production.

Research contact: @WSJ

NYC developer offers premium, furnished units to top execs who split time between work and home

May 18, 2022

Giant New York City-based developer Related is launching a new lodging brand that targets top business executives who split time between their primary residence and a place near their office, reports The Wall Street Journal.

While a number of developers, lodging companies, and startup firms have focused on offerings for mobile freelance staffers or employees working remotely, Related aims to lure members of top management and others who can pay a premium for amenity-rich buildings where they can mingle with peers.

The first one will be a 270-unit residential tower in the Hudson Yards neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side, where Related has developed a sprawling complex.

Opening in the fall, it features furnished units, concierges and three floors of hotel-like amenities. Rents start at about $5,200 a month for a furnished studio and about $7,200 a month for a one-bedroom unit. Lease terms will start at one year, though they may be shorter in the future.

The brand, named The Set, will also feature wine tastings, speakers and other programs to give residents a sense of community. “People want to know their neighbors,” said Jeff Blau, Related’s chief executive.

More executives who used to work out of offices five days a week now go in only two or three days and work the rest of their time from their homes in the suburbs or even in other cities. These trends have been building in recent years, but were “supercharged” by the pandemic, Blau said.

Other residential and lodging companies have also stepped up efforts recently to appeal to the remote-work crowd. With more people working remotely and extending vacations, Airbnb  introduced last week a new feature allowing guests booking trips for one week or more to divide trips between two different homes. The short-term rental firm said that stays of 28 days or more made up 21% of bookings in the first quarter, above prepandemic levels.

Mint House, a startup that provides upscale hotel experiences in apartment buildings in 15 cities this year, began offering a new program with a higher level of service named Second Home targeting hybrid workers seeking a pied-à-terre near their offices.

“Typically they’re the more senior person in a corporation who has decided: maybe I’ll live in Miami now or maybe I’ll live in Boston now and go to headquarters with whatever frequency,” said Shane Berry, Mint House’s chief customer officer.

Sonder, which manages short-term-rental apartments and hotels, is going after some of the same customers. Kasa, a San Francisco-based startup that is also appealing to remote workers, offers group discounts for companies that book ten rooms or more.

Related’s new project will open in a 45-story Hudson Yards building that it will share with Related’s new senior housing brand named Coterie. Blau said numerous executives who work at offices in Hudson Yards live in the suburbs, work in the office three days a week, and stay at upscale hotels.

Related is planning to expand the brand to other cities—including Miami; Los Angeles; Chicago; and Austin, Texas.

“Here they can rent this unit, walk in, full service, full amenities, fully furnished, sheets, towels, everything; but it’s theirs,” he said. “They can be there three days a week and it’s a lot less expensive than a hotel.”

Research contact: @WSJ

FDA approves Bristol-Myers drug for inherited heart disease known to kill young athletes

May 2, 2022

U.S. health regulators have approved a pill from Bristol-Myers Squibb  that is the first to treat people with the most common genetic heart disease, reports The Wall Street Journal.

.The Food and Drug Administration cleared the drug for people showing symptoms of the condition, which can lead to blood clots, strokes and in rare cases, death, Bristol said April 28.

The disease, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), causes the heart muscles to thicken excessively and make it difficult for the organ to pump blood. The condition affects about 1 in 500 people. It is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people, including athletes, although it is rare.

However, since young athletes rarely are diagnosed with the condition, the pills might not be prescribed for them.

Possible symptoms of HCM include shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, dizziness, unexplained tiredness, and fainting.

The new drug, which carries the chemical name mavacamten and which Bristol will market as Camzyos, was the centerpiece of the company’s $13.1 billion acquisition of MyoKardia in 2020. Bristol is counting on sales to help offset several upcoming patent expirations for key products.

Camzyos could generate more than $2 billion in sales by 2026, according to analysts at Bernstein. Bristol said it priced Camzyos at $89,500 per year.

“This is a humongous step in the direction of trying to find transformative medicines for patients with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy,” Samit Hirawat, Bristol’s chief medical officer, said in an interview.

In HCM patients, heart walls are thicker and the organ contracts more forcefully, decreasing the flow of blood out of the heart. Camzyos blocks a protein, called myosin, that is believed to play a key role in causing the contractions.

The drug’s approval is for a common form of the disease, known as obstructive HCM. In that form, blood flow is partially blocked from the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, to the aorta.

The FDA based its decision on a 251-subject late-stage study from Bristol that found Camzyos significantly improved heart function, quality of life and oxygen consumption in patients with HCM after 30 weeks.

No serious safety concerns were observed, the researchers said.

Research contact: @WSJ

Apple opens self-repair store with $300 iPhone screens, 19-cent screws

April 28, 2022

Apple is making it easier for customers and independent repair technicians to “perform surgery” on some iPhones and Macs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

After years of resisting DIY repairs, Apple opened a new online store on Wednesday, April 27, where anyone can view repair manuals and order replacement parts and tools for certain recent devices.

The new Self Service Repair Store sells screens, batteries, cameras, and other parts to fix some issues with iPhone 12 and 13 models and 2022’s updated iPhone SE. Later this year, it will stock parts and tools to fix Macs that have Apple silicon chips.

Just don’t expect to save much money doing repairs yourself. Buying parts to fix an iPhone 12 Mini on your own would cost only $3 less than having your out-of-warranty device fixed at an Apple Store, for instance. And you’d still have to pay for tools.

Apple has been known for its tight control of the repair process. For years, you needed to go to an Apple Store or authorized service provider for Apple-approved fixes that were often more expensive than repairs at independent shops. Taking your device to an independent repair technician—or cracking it open yourself—could void whatever warranty you had left.

With the self-service program, Apple is keeping ahead of possible “Right to Repair” regulations by the federal government, including the Fair Repair Act introduced in Congress.

While anyone can buy the parts and tools, Apple expects them to mainly be used not by consumers, but by technicians who have experience repairing electronic devices.

Research contact: @WSJ

Democrats move closer to dropping Iowa’s early slot in presidential nomination process

April 15, 2022

Democratic Party officials approved a resolution on Wednesday, April 13, that would allow up to five states to hold presidential nomination contests before the first Tuesday in March 2024, based on new criteria that could strip Iowa of its first-in-the-nation status for one of the two major parties, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Republicans have shown no sign of changing an early lineup that has traditionally started with Iowa, followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Democrats in 2020 followed a similar schedule, but with Nevada going ahead of South Carolina.

The resolution approved by the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee calls for an early calendar schedule that stresses racial, ethnic and geographic diversity; as well as union representation, competitiveness in general elections, and ability to run a “fair, transparent and inclusive nominating process.”

The committee will hold listening sessions this spring and summer on the proposed changes and also hear presentations from states that want to win an early slot. The deadline for application is June 3, and all four of the traditional early states will have to audition to keep their spots.

Any changes will have to be approved by the full DNC, likely in the late summer or early fall. Some committee members have said the changes are needed to better reflect the party’s diversity and values.

The Iowa caucuses, which have been first since 1972, have also long been criticized for being held in a state that is more rural and has a larger proportion of older and white voters than the nation as a whole. Iowa’s population is 85% non-Hispanic white, compared with a national average of 58%.

Iowa has in the past received international attention—and tens of millions of dollars in TV ads, hotel reservations and more—from being the initial stop on the road to the White House. That makes other states envious, and every four years Iowa is forced to defend its status.

“Caucuses are going to be a hard sell for me,” said Mo Elleithee, a member of the Rules and Bylaws Committee. “States that don’t offer some diversity are going to be a hard sell.”

Iowa has clung to its caucus tradition in large part because that has allowed it to keep peace with New Hampshire, which has a state law that requires it to hold the first primary.

Research contact: @WSJ

Pinterest will remove content deemed climate-change misinformation

April 7, 2022

The social media platform, Pinterest, is rolling out new guidelines prohibiting posts that it says contains misinformation about climate change, as it continues to grapple with curbing the spread of false and misleading information, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

The social-media platform, where users post anything, from photos and links to recipes and home-decor ideas, said on Wednesday, April 6, that, going forward, it will remove content from users or advertisers that it deems as misinformation about the existence or impact of climate change.

Specifically, Pinterest is aiming to eliminate content that it says misrepresents scientific data; and false or misleading findings about public-safety emergencies, including natural disasters.

“For years, we’ve been working on our misinformation policy and defining what type of harmful content does not have a place on Pinterest,” said Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of Policy. “Harmful misinformation does not. It is not additive to a positive inspiring experience on the platform.”

Pinterest said it worked with the climate-change experts to develop the policy based on common misinformation themes they’ve seen across media platforms. It will use automated systems and moderators to take action on content that violates the new guidelines, Bromma said. Pinterest will allow users to flag content that will get reviewed as well, she said.

Pinterest, founded in 2010, first focused on photos when it launched. More recently, the company has been pivoting to a focus on video, commerce, and creators. Last year, it was the subject of takeover rumors. PayPal had been in talks to buy the company but ultimately backed off of a potential $40-billion-plus takeover after its shareholders balked.

The policy change at Pinterest follows a report earlier this week by climate experts tapped by the United Nations that found that countries must make major, rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy to meet the goals in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

An earlier report found that greenhouse-gas emissions due to human activity may have irreversibly changed the climate in some ways.

Pinterest joins other tech companies that have taken steps to limit the spread of false information on climate change.

Alphabet’s Google said last October that it would no longer allow digital ads bought on its platform to appear next to online content that denies climate change—a ban that will also apply to YouTubeTwitter launched a program last November that created hubs users can find under various tabs on its messaging platform.

Meta PlatformsFacebook also added new guidelines in November that use fact-checking organizations to determine if climate-change content is false. If it is false, Facebook reduces its distribution so fewer people see it and applies warning labels to the posts.

Research contact: @WSJ

Uber reaches deal to list all New York City taxis on its app

March 25, 2022

Uber Technologies  is fast becoming friends with a former foe. Indeed, the company that vowed to disrupt the U.S. taxi industry is now betting that traditional cabs will fuel its next wave of growth, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The peer-to-peer ridesharing, food delivery, and transportation network company has reached an agreement to list all New York City taxis on its app—an alliance that could ease the ride-hailing giant’s driver shortage and temper high fares; while directing more business to cabdrivers, whose livelihoods have been affected by the emergence of car-sharing apps and the pandemic.

While Uber has formed partnerships with some taxi operators overseas—and riders in several U.S. cities can use its app to book taxis if cabdrivers choose to be listed there—the New York City alliance is its first citywide partnership nationwide.

New York, one of Uber’s most lucrative markets, has been a battlefield for the company and the city’s iconic yellow taxis for years.

“It’s bigger and bolder than anything we’ve done,” said Andrew Macdonald, Uber’s SVP of Global Mobility. The company expects to launch the offering to riders later this spring.

As part of the deal, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s licensed technology partners will integrate their taxi-hailing apps’ software with Uber’s. Those apps—run by Creative Mobile Technologies and Curb Mobility—are used by the city’s roughly 14,000 taxis, according to Uber. The two companies enable credit-card payments in taxis, and also run the screens that display the weather, news and ads to riders.

Passengers will pay roughly the same fare for taxi rides as for Uber X rides, according to the company. Uber drivers in New York City receive a minimum time and distance rate set by the TLC. Uber said its drivers typically earn more than that rate. Cabdrivers who agree to take Uber passengers will be paid in the same way.

The yellow-cab metered rate is based on a different calculus, meaning taxi drivers can make less, the same, or more on an Uber ride, depending on the nature of the trip. Unlike Uber drivers in New York, taxi drivers will see expected earnings before a trip and will be able to decline rides they don’t think are worth their while, Uber said.

Uber and its taxi partners will receive a cut of the fare. The companies declined to specify the terms. Uber’s average global take rate for rides in the fourth quarter was 20%.

Research contact: @WSJ

America sends Soviet air defense systems it secretly acquired to Ukraine

March 23, 2022

The United States is sending some of the Soviet-made air defense equipment that it acquired clandestinely decades ago to the Ukrainian military as it seeks to fend off  Russian air and missile attacks, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, the United States has acquired a small number of Soviet missile defense systems so that they could be examined by U.S. intelligence experts and help with training American forces. The weapons are familiar to Ukraine’s military, which inherited this type of equipment following the breakup of the Soviet Union, sources say.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the U.S. decision to reach into its little-known arsenal of Soviet weapons, which comes as the Biden Administration is mounting a major push to expand Ukraine’s air defense capabilities.

The secretive efforts received public attention in 1994 when a Soviet-made transport plane was observed at the Huntsville, Alabama, airport within sight of a major highway. It was later disclosed that the plane was carrying an S-300 air defense system that America had acquired in Belarus as part of a clandestine project involving a Pentagon contractor that cost $100 million, according to a former official involved in the mission.

The S-300—called the SA-10 by NATO—is a long-range, advanced air defense system intended to protect large areas over a much wider radius.

The SA-8 is a short-range, tactical surface-to-air missile designed to move with ground forces and provide cover from aircraft and helicopters. While the SA-8 has a shorter range, it is highly mobile and potentially easier to hide.

Some of the Soviet-style weapons have been kept at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, which its website notes serves as “the Army’s center for missile and rocket programs.” At least some of what the U.S. sent was from that base, said officials, who added that C-17s recently flew to a nearby airfield at Huntsville.

The S-300 from Belarus wasn’t among the systems that are being sent to Ukraine, one U.S. official said.

The United States is hoping that the provision of additional air defenses will enable Ukraine to create a de facto no-fly zone, since America and its NATO allies have rebuffed Ukraine’s appeals that the alliance establish one. Such a step, Biden Administration officials have said, could lead to a direct confrontation between the U.S.-led alliance and Russian forces, which it is determined to avoid.

Research contact: @WSJ

Zelensky renews call for help, EU membership: ‘Prove you are with us’

March 2, 2022

Amid intensifying Russian attacks on Ukraine, the country’s president delivered an emotional video address to the European Parliament, telling European Union leaders that his compatriots are dying to achieve freedom and equality, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“We are giving our lives for the right to be equal,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the special session of the EU’s legislature. “Prove that you are with us and will not let us go.”

Unshaven and clad in a green army T-shirt, seated in front of a blank wall next to a Ukrainian flag, Zelensky spoke extemporaneously for more than seven minutes and made a point that he wasn’t delivering prepared remarks.

“I don’t read off the sheet because the paper phase in the life of my country has ended,” he said, waving a sheet of paper. “We’re dealing with killed people, with real life, you know?”

Zelensky reiterated a recent call for the EU to grant Ukraine membership. In comments following Zelensky’s address, European Council President Charles Michel —who represents the leaders of the 27 EU countries—said the Ukrainian request to be a candidate for EU membership should be given serious consideration.

Officials from the bloc’s 27 member states, which would need to approve the candidacy, discussed Ukraine’s EU bid on Monday, February 28.

Zelensky said two cruise missiles had hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, on Tuesday morning, killing dozens of people. He explained that the city, near Russia, has long been a point of friendly exchange between the two countries and has more than 20 universities. In its center is Freedom Square, the largest square in Ukraine and, Zelensky said, the largest in Europe.

“Can you imagine, this morning two cruise missiles hit this Freedom Square, with dozens killed at once,” Mr. Zelensky said, visibly angry. “This is the price of freedom.”

Zelensky also said Russian forces killed 16 children on Monday, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his forces are targeting military installations and infrastructure.

“Where are our children? What kind of military factories do they work at?” Mr. Zelensky said. “He killed 16 people just yesterday,” he said of Putin.

“We are fighting for our rights. For our freedom. For our lives,” Mr. Zelensky said. “And now we are fighting for our survival.”

The address received a standing ovation that lasted for more than a minute.

Research contact: @WSJ

Six people you will meet in the pandemic workplace

February 22, 2022

It used to be obvious what your employees wanted out of work. Pre-pandemic, most of us accepted that almost every white-collar professional’s goal was to get promoted and move up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible.

But not anymore, author Dorie Clark—who teaches executive education at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business—reports in The Wall Street Journal.

Indeed, she says, the pandemic prompted a widespread re-evaluation of our lives. One study reported that 54% of Americans are currently re-examining their life priorities—including 20% who started doing so directly as a result of the pandemic.

Increasingly, that re-evaluation means that work is taking a back seat. A 2021 Pew Research study found that only 17% of adults now cite their job or career as a source of meaning—down 7 percentage points from four years earlier.

That shift can be discomfiting for leaders, who are already navigating massive upheaval in the job market and the threat that their employees might leave. To effectively manage a workforce with such disparate goals and desires, managers have to recognize that the workforce has fragmented—possibly forever—into multiple employee archetypes.

The following represent six of the most common types of employees whom you may recognize from your own office:

  •         Ambitious employees: If you’re a leader, you’ll likely know who your ambitious staffers are, because they have spent the pandemic doubling down. They’re focused on their jobs and want to advance. To retain them, show an interest in their career aspirations and development. Ask them specifically about their future goals and help them to develop a plan to cultivate the skills and experiences they’ll need. These employees are likely to be your future crop of leaders—because they’re the ones who want it, and actually care.
  •         Work-to-live advocates: These employees—whether pre-pandemic or because of the reflections it has sparked—have decided to prioritize aspects of their life outside work. Whether their focus is on family, community or hobbies, their goal is having a steady paycheck and a job that’s manageable and can be balanced with the areas they really care about. Their goal is doing what needs to be done fast—so they can move on to the rest of their lives. To retain them, make sure you understand their priorities and take care not to impinge. If their chief value is attending their children’s sports matches, for instance, recognize that forcing them to work late unexpectedly on a regular basis means they’ll soon be headed out the door.
  •         Double-duty professionals: Caregiving always has been a reality for many professionals, who have had to balance career aspirations with responsibilities at home. But the pandemic’s unique challenges—including home schooling and managing quarantine protocols—have increased those challenges, especially (though not exclusively) for female employees. In one September 2021 study, 48% of women said that COVID had negatively affected their career paths. These days, success for them often means getting through the day and maintaining their sanity amid competing responsibilities. But it’s important for employers to recognize these employees remain ambitious and want to advance, but are facing temporary challenges that will likely resolve over time. Supporting your employees now with flexibility and understanding will help build loyalty and trust, so they can step up as the motivated employees they are.
  •         The desperate-to-connect: Many employees who live alone and have spent the pandemic in relative solitude may be looking to work these days to provide human interaction—especially young, single workers for whom the workplace offers much-needed community. Others may have overdosed on family over the past two years, but now that kids are back in school or they have caregiving needs worked out, they can’t wait to escape back into the realm of adult conversations. Either way, leaders need to recognize that a significant motivator for these “desperate to connect” employees—at least for right now—is social. Transactional Zoom calls just won’t cut it; managers need to take the time to converse and cultivate a deeper relationship
  •         Zest-for-lifers: Whether it’s a retiree looking to stay engaged or a professional who’s consciously chosen to downshift his or her expenses (perhaps by leaving an expensive urban center), not everyone actually needs to work. Like the “work to live” crew, the “zest for life” professionals don’t necessarily prioritize their careers. But they’re not just putting up with work, either. They’re actively seeking it out as a way to connect with others and learn new things. They can be passionate and high-performing employees if leaders take care to recognize their central motivation—which isn’t a paycheck. For these employees, professional satisfaction means connecting with others, personal growth, and conquering interesting challenges.
  •         Disoriented new hires: Finally, there is this group of fledgling workers, who have been on-boarded without actually meeting anyone in person. At many companies, new hires—sometimes recruited entirely through virtual channels—may be confused out of their minds. Of course, they have done their best to pick up company culture and mores through implicit clues. But it’s a lot harder to figure things out virtually, and to feel connected. Smart leaders have probably been making an effort to ensure these employees feel welcome and included.

Thus, Clark suggests, whatever employers have been doing during the pandemic, it’s probably not enough. Now, kick it up a notch. All of your workers have, in some way, been thrown into a totally befuddling and unexpected situation, so, she advises, over-index on the care you take with them.

Research contact: @WSJ