Newsletter: California Inc.: Heroes are converging on San Diego for Comic-Con
Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.
I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.
For anyone who thinks rising temperatures aren’t that big a deal, check out this Columbia University study published in the journal Climate Change. It estimates that 10% to 30% of fully loaded planes may have to remove fuel, cargo or passengers to fly during the hottest parts of the day or wait for temperatures to drop. As temperatures rise, air becomes less dense, which means that aircraft wings generate less lift as a plane gains speed along a runway and can’t raise it off the ground.
Invest and chill: Netflix reports its quarterly earnings Monday and investors are hoping for better news than last time. Netflix’s first-quarter results in April showed weaker-than-expected subscriber growth and a high rate of cash burn as the Los Gatos company ramped up original content production. Since then, Netflix has reached 100 million subscribers and made a deal to to license its shows to a Chinese online-video platform.
Drug costs: The Food and Drug Administration will hold a public meeting Tuesday to discuss plans to boost the generic prescription drugs available to consumers. The FDA has proposed changes to its rules for approving generics in an effort to increase market competition, make medicines more affordable and prevent price gouging. The meeting will be in Silver Spring, Md.; interested parties can submit comments on the proposal online.
Heroic gathering: Nerds will converge at the San Diego Convention Center this week at Comic-Con International, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Sunday. Executives from DC, Marvel and Fox will be there to promote new comic-book movies — not just conventional superheroes, but movies like “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Expect some hype for Marvel’s much-anticipated “Black Panther” film, set to open in February.
Party on: FYF Fest, the Goldenvoice-produced music festival that has grown from a tiny punk gig into an international destination event, will run from Friday through Sunday at Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. Headliners include Missy Elliott, Bjork and Frank Ocean. The SoCal festival business has boomed, assisted by the L.A. concert promoter’s festivals aimed at specific audiences. Though FYF has received complaints about long lines and confusing layouts, it remains a favorite for acts.
Memorable event: Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” opening Friday, will test the market for big-budget, adult-oriented movies. The Warner Bros. World War II movie is getting a wide release and should gross about $40 million in its opening weekend. Meanwhile, the special-effects heavy “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” from French producer EuropaCorp, is expected to be one of the most expensive flops of the year.
Monday’s Business section pays a visit to Best Buy. Five years ago, the electronics retailer looked like a retail dinosaur, another victim of e-commerce juggernaut Amazon.com and other online sellers. But things have changed. Under CEO Hubert Joly, the chain has rebounded to remain one of the few major retailers that’s holding its own in the face of Amazon’s relentless growth. Joly adopted a multichannel retail strategy that stabilized Best Buy’s sales and profit while sharply boosting its stock price since late 2012.
Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:
Disneyland lines: Average wait times at the Disneyland Resort have been on the rise over the past few years, despite efforts by the park to ease crowding by raising ticket prices on peak demand daysand expanding a ride reservation system. A Times analysis found that the average wait time for the resort’s most popular rides in the first six months of the year was 24.4 minutes, a 28% increase over the same period in 2015.
Changing skyline: The first condo tower of Metropolis, one of the biggest real estate developments in Los Angeles history, officially opened amid a wave of construction that is crowding the downtown skyline. The long-anticipated, $1-billion luxury condo-and-hotel complex rising along the Harbor Freeway is one of a handful of mega-projects being built by Chinese real estate companies looking to make a splash in L.A.
Healthcare bill: With their bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act only a vote away from collapse, Republican leaders scrambled to rally GOP senators behind revised healthcare legislation. The new version — which represents Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest bid to unite his fractious caucus — would still enact historic cuts in federal healthcare assistance to low- and moderate-income Americans.
Net neutrality: Some of the Web’s biggest names — Amazon, Google, Netflix, Twitter — joined thousands of smaller websites in urging users to tell Washington to leave the Internet the way it is. On website banners, pop-up widgets, blog posts and videos, Web companies asked that tough net neutrality rules for online traffic be kept in place in the face of a push by Republicans and Internet service providers to dismantle them.
Gymboree closures: What’s been dubbed the “retail apocalypse” has hit children’s apparel seller Gymboree, which plans to close about 350 of its Gymboree, Janie and Jack, and Crazy 8 stores nationwide as it restructures after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June. In Southern California, the company will close 11 stores, including two in Los Angeles County. The San Francisco company aims to reduce its debt by $900 million.
WHAT WE’RE READING
And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:
Walking on sunshine: The efforts of utility companies to fight expansion of rooftop solar energy have wide implications, says Bloomberg’s Noah Smith. “The clobbering of rooftop solar should cause dismay not just among environmentalists worried about global warming, but also among economists, policy makers and anyone who cares about economic efficiency.” Government should stand back and let solar compete fairly with fossil fuels, Smith argues.
Union fees: A suit filed by a retired Garden Grove nurse could affect the way labor unions collect member fees, reports the Orange County Register. Marie DaRe, 68, is suing to stop the United Domestic Workers from taking money from her paycheck. “The DaRe suit is the latest broadside in a decades-long drive by GOP officials, libertarian advocates and corporate-funded foundations to weaken labor unions,” the Register’s Margot Roosevelt writes.
Strange stock: The Wall Street Journal looks at the bizarre case of DryShips Inc., a Greek shipping company that has been on “one of the wildest rides in recent stock-market history, causing half a billion dollars of traders’ money to vanish and, it appears, making two wealthy men wealthier.” The company’s stock trajectory has defied normal patterns, soaring after the company reported a huge loss, then losing 99.9% of its value.
Helping moms: Fifth Third Bank offers a “maternity concierge” service for expectant and new mothers working there, reports Fast Company. The service aims to take care of non-work chores for employees so they can focus on work. “Requests have ranged from planning gluten-free gender reveal parties to scouring Pinterest and pinning images that could inspire a child’s birthday party theme.”
Location, location: Location sharing is increasingly available on our phones and in our apps, but that doesn’t mean you always want to use it, notes the New York Times. “All the popular location-sharing tools are limited or flawed, and in some cases broadcasting your location may not be worth the effort or worth draining your phone’s battery life. Even worse, location tracking raises numerous privacy concerns about who can snoop into your whereabouts.”
Where do Doritos come from? If you answered “heaven,” you’re close. It turns out, as this mind-blowing video from Business Insider reveals, that the origin of Doritos can be traced to Disneyland — but perhaps not how you think. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “junk food.”
For the latest money news, go to www.latimes.com/business. Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.
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