Newsletter: California Inc.: Hollywood is courted by a newly moviegoing Saudi Arabia

Female moviegoers in Saudi Arabia, which has announced a lifting of the kingdom’s decades-long ban on movie theaters. It’s one of a series of recent social reforms.
(AFP/Getty Images)

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.

If you’re tired of the lack of choice for internet service, check this out: The Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX’s application to provide broadband access with satellites. The FCC said in a statement that the approval was another step to “increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States.” SpaceX cautioned it still has “much to do with this complex undertaking.”



What’s the buzz? Tesla is expected to release its latest Model 3 production numbers this week, and analysts will be watching closely to see if the electric car company is near its goal of 2,500 vehicles a week. Tesla’s stock has been hammered this year amid output worries and a fatal crash last month in California.

Saudi Hollywood: On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority hosts a summit at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills on Hollywood investment in the desert kingdom, which just lifted a three-decade ban on movie theaters. The event coincides with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Los Angeles, but the royal heir is not expected to attend.

TWC sale: Bankrupt Weinstein Co.’s next court hearing is scheduled for Friday in Delaware, where the company hopes a judge will approve procedures for the upcoming auction to sell its assets. The studio filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 19, more than five months after Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and assault by dozens of women.

Credit watch: The latest snapshot of consumer credit will be released Friday by the Federal Reserve. U.S. consumer debt rose in January by the least amount in four months thanks to a slowdown in the use of revolving products such as credit cards.



Monday’s Business section looks at the intersection of immigration and caregivers for the elderly. Nationwide, 1 million immigrants work in direct care — as certified nursing assistants, personal care attendants or home health aides. Immigrants make up one in four such workers. Amid a crackdown on undocumented workers, “the anti-immigrant climate” threatens the stability of the workforce, one experts says, affecting “the ability of older people and people with disabilities to access home healthcare.”


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

Amazon attack: President Trump savaged the Seattle-based online retailer in a series of tweets, accusing it of using the U.S. Postal Service as its “delivery boy” and saying its shipping deal with the service is a “scam” that must end. Amazon’s stock took a hit but later recovered. The company defended its shipping agreement and the Postal Service has said it actually makes money on the Amazon deal, the terms of which experts say the president has little leverage to change.

Tesla troubles: Some more detail on a very bad week for Elon Musk and Tesla. The company disclosed that the driver who died in a recent Model X crash had put the car on Autopilot. The company recalled 123,000 Model S cars due to power-steering problems. Worse, debt rating-service Moody’s downgraded Tesla’s bonds due to a cash crunch stemming from the Palo Alto company’s inability to hit production targets for its mass-market Model S sedan.

Facebook woes: The controversy over how data from 50 million Facebook users ended up in the hands of a consulting firm with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign didn’t let up. The social networking company released simpler and more powerful privacy controls as CEO Mark Zuckerberg was said to be negotiating an appearance before Congress. Meanwhile, celebrities such as Will Ferrell piled on, deleting their accounts.


Roseanne revival: A Trump-loving “Roseanne” is making the Nielsen ratings great again for ABC. The premiere of the show’s reboot drew 18.2 million viewers who watched Roseanne Barr re-create her working-class matriarch character, this time as a Trump supporter. The big audience for the sitcom is another sign of how viewers are apparently looking for familiar TV friends to help deal with uncertain times.

Pump and dump: The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Los Angeles’ largest stock brokerage of ignoring or failing to properly investigate warning signs that a broker had pushed clients to invest in a pump-and-dump scheme. The SEC called Wedbush Securities a “recidivist,” noting that this is the agency’s second action against it this year. The firm declined to comment, and the broker involved, who no longer works there, denied the allegations.


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

Deeper in debt: Republicans promised to cut the deficit, Bloomberg says. But thanks to tax cuts and increased spending, they’re only making it worse. “We definitely need to be worried,” one economist says. “We’re going to have trillion-dollar deficits, and trillion-dollar deficits for as long as I forecast.”

Safety in diversity: Barely a week goes by without a retailer being accused of racism or insensitivity. As the New York Times tells it, one prominent company, H&M, is seeking greater diversity as a hedge against thoughtless decisions. “We didn’t recognize that in this new age of transparency, what the brand stands for is super important to people,” one worker says.

Trust me: The Atlantic explores use of polygraph machines in an age of alternative facts. “They offer, seductively, that most elusive of things: certainty in a world that offers so little of it, objective truth in a time of subjective facts. In all that, of course, they are lying.”


Drink up: Inc. profiles Brook Eddy, who traveled to India in 2002 and fell in love with chai tea. That led her to found Bhakti Chai, which sells its beverages at Whole Foods, Costco and Target. “Maybe someday it’s sauces or chutneys or snacks or food or a brick-and-mortar concept. And maybe the pulse and the vibration of India will come through somehow.”

Science! From Wired, the story of a galaxy with very little dark matter, which astrophysicists say is a crucial component in holding the universe together. “This is weird — and it could change what astrophysicists think dark matter is, in addition to upending their understanding of how galaxies form.”


As Facebook catches heck over a cavalier approach to user data, many people are heeding the call to #DeleteFacebook. But how do you do that? The Wall Street Journal offers a helpful video tutorial that walks you through the steps.

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

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