Newsletter: California Inc.: A flashy event for the world’s most famous movie theater

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.

Here in the Golden State, there are some mixed messages on the jobs front. Employers slashed 16,300 jobs from payrolls in April — the first month that the state posted a job loss since June 2016. However, unemployment fell to 4.8% from 4.9% in March, the lowest rate since 2001, though still higher than the national jobless rate of 4.4%. Seven sectors posted job losses, including professional and business services and trade, transportation and utilities, which combined cut a net 23,400 jobs last month.


Marquee event: On Monday, TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood will project movie scenes on the outside of its building as part of the theater’s 90th anniversary celebration. The theater is expected to use new projection technology that can show images on an uneven surface. The TCL Chinese, once known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, is perhaps the most famous movie theater in the world — an estimated 5 million people a year visit to look at the footprints and handprints in its signature Forecourt of the Stars. The “Hollywood Lights” show begins at 8 p.m.


Closures start: J.C. Penney will begin liquidation sales Monday at 138 stores it’s planning to close by the end of July. The only SoCal store on the chopping block is in Orange. In a bid to cut costs and boost its long-term performance, the department store chain announced in February that it would be closing the stores in mid-June. Sales at the stores jumped after the announcement, causing the company to delay the closures a month.

CFPB director: A federal court will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that could determine whether Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, keeps his job or not. A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in October that the president can fire the CFPB director “at will.” But in February, the full appeals court threw out that ruling and scheduled this week’s hearing to reconsider the topic. President Trump has vowed to overhaul the CFPB.

Avast! Johnny Depp is back as Keith Richards — er, Captain Jack Sparrow — in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” which hits theaters Friday. It’s the fifth in the long-long-running franchise based on the theme park ride, and could open as high as $90 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to box office trackers. Hackers have threatened to release the movie in advance unless Disney paid a Bitcoin ransom.

Economic summit: President Trump will join the leaders of six other major economies in a Group of 7 meeting in Sicily on Friday and Saturday. Trade restrictions and climate change are among the issues expected to come up for discussion with the leaders of the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Japan. Trump has said he will decide after the meeting whether to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate change accord.


Monday’s Business section delves into the trade deficit. When President Trump bemoans the trade deficit, he’s almost always speaking about goods — steel, beef, lumber, car parts and other products that flow in and out of the country. But the far bigger long-term growth potential and competitive opportunity for turning around America’s trade woes lie with exported services, from financial consulting and insurance to engineering and digital music. Unlike the trade in goods that ran a $750-billion deficit, the country last year posted a $250-billion surplus in services.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:

After Ailes: Roger Ailes, who died last week, was the man who created Fox News, a breakthrough outlet for conservatives who felt their views were under-represented by the major broadcast networks. Ailes’ death will probably complicate several pending lawsuits and a federal investigation into whether parent company 21st Century Fox violated any securities laws in its handling of payments to women to resolve sexual-harassment claims at Fox News.

Bank settlement: A U.S. district judge suggested he will sign off on a $142-million deal that would settle class-action lawsuits against Wells Fargo over unauthorized accounts, as long as the agreement is amended. Those changes could include sending settlement notices to more customers, allowing customers suing the bank over other matters to continue their cases and giving the judge more oversight of how settlement payments will be made.

Net neutrality: Federal regulators took the first formal step toward repealing tough net neutrality rules enacted two years ago that imposed strict oversight of Internet service providers to ensure the unfettered flow of online content. The move by the Federal Communications Commission is part of a broader effort by Republicans since President Trump took office to undo regulations enacted during the Obama era.

Retirement crisis: California officials are vowing to push ahead with a state-run retirement program that could benefit nearly 7 million private-sector workers who don’t have a pension or 401(k). Senate leader Kevin de León and state Treasurer John Chiang said the California Secure Choice program is on solid legal footing even though President Trump signed legislation that nullified an Obama-era regulation giving states legal authority to have such programs.

Airline safety: As U.S. security officials consider expanding a ban on laptops, tablets and other such electronic devices in the cabins of commercial flights, an airline trade group proposed tightening security measures instead. The International Air Transport Assn. said regulators could increase the testing of passengers and their bags and electronic devices for traces of explosives, boost the use of explosive-sniffing dogs and deploy more security agents to interrogate travelers.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

Intelligent designs: With the Trump administration cutting funding for scientific and technological research, Silicon Valley is leading the way in artificial intelligence, reports the New York Times. “Technology companies aren’t just funding big things — they are funding the biggest, most world-changing things. They are spending on ideas that, years from now, we may come to see as having altered life for much of the planet.”

Hard-knock life: A lack of affordable housing has caused “a persistent and growing underclass” to emerge in Orange County, the Register reports. A new report finds that “homelessness, overcrowding and family financial instability are directly linked to high housing costs.”

Fast and furious: Today’s cars are getting more powerful and quicker at a astonishing rate, reports Bloomberg. “If a 1976 driver were to somehow get his hands on a car from 2017, he’d be at grave risk of whiplash. Since those days, horsepower in the U.S. has almost doubled, with the median model climbing from 145 to 283 stallions.” What’s more, automakers are boosting performance while improving gas mileage.

Our family’s slave: In the Atlantic, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Tizon describes how his family employed a slave for 56 years. He was 11 years old before he realized what she was. “She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been.”

Drug approval: Sarepta Therapeutics, desperate to find a profitable drug to sell, thought it had a winner when it developed a medication called eteplirsen, the Wall Street Journal reports. The company hoped to sell the drug, aimed at combating a rare form of muscular dystrophy that afflicts boys, for $300,000 a year per patient. But with little proof that the drug actually worked, the company launched a guerrilla lobbying effort to win FDA approval.


That story about selling meds reminds me that the United States is one of only two countries that allows the hawking of prescription drugs directly to consumers. Like many parents, I’ve been forced to come up with an answer when my son asked what was going on, such as in this ad for the erectile-dysfunction remedy Cialis. Then there are all the loony side effects that may be listed. After a while, you realize that all these ads are the same.

For the latest money news, go to Mad props to Scott J. Wilson for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.