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AMC And Other Theaters Outraged With Disney Over Ticket Revenue Divide For About A Week

This is probably the least disturbing picture I found when I googled “evil disney”

It’s no secret that owning a movie theater can kind of suck if you want to make money.  Sure people flock to it every night to see the latest releases, but the movie studios make more money from the meat in the seats than the theaters do.  You can thank profit hungry movie executives for the $6.00 box of stale cookie dough bites you just paid for, but some people in the theater business are sick and tired of movie studios reaping the benefits of their hard work.

Iron Man 3 is scheduled to be released next Friday, and unless you live under a rock/hate Marvel you know that it’s expected to be one of the highest grossing movies of the year (if not the highest grossing because seriously its Iron Man).  Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Holdings were supposed to start selling online tickets for the movie, but after realizing that they were getting completely screwed by Disney on the revenue split they decided to refuse to sell them.  Soon other theater franchises (which apparently exist) followed suit.

Usually most movie studios and movie theaters split ticket sales revenue “50-50″, but in reality it’s more like 40-60 or 30-70 because it’s pretty common for studios to request a bigger share of revenue for high-profile releases.  Apparently this all started when movie studios and theater franchises met at Cinema-Con when Disney made a big presentation about their upcoming pictures.  When Disney announced that they wanted to renegotiate how cinema chains split up the ticket revenue between studios for their upcoming picture, AMC put their foot down.

It isn’t uncommon for movie studios and theaters to clash over ticket revenue, in fact it seems like every four years there’s a new battle royale over who gets what.  People are crying foul this time because it seems like Disney is doing this in anticipation for their upcoming big movies.  Disney acquired the rights to the Star Wars franchise a few months ago, and there are rumors that the company is going to attempt to release a new movie every year after 2015.  Disney bought up Marvel years ago, but now the rights other studios had to Marvels hit franchises (X-Men, Spiderman, Daredevil) are set to expire.  If all goes well Disney is going to have an extremely profitable next couple of years, and they want to keep a lot of that revenue to themselves.

Despite AMC’s loud objection to any price changes over a week ago, it was reported yesterday that AMC and Disney reached an agreement.  Since the deal’s details have not been made public, one can only assume that AMC probably didn’t win this one since they were up against a company that technically has one of the world’s largest naval fleets because of their insane amount of cruise ships.


Investment News: Gold Prices Fall, Investors Predict the End of Days

Swim now Scrooge, your day of judgement shall come soon enough

Have you heard the old saying about “sure things” in the world of investment, and how that there is no such thing as a sure investment?  There technically isn’t anything that’s a sure thing when you’re in the investing game, but there are a few things people consider “sure things” because they clearly don’t want to listen to the advice of others.  Gold is one of those mythical sure thing investments, since it’s played such a big roll currency values and in electronic manufacturing a lot of people invest in it because they can’t image a time where it wouldn’t be a valuable commodity.

Today was gold traded at its lowest price in two years.  The low value was surprising, but it certainly doesn’t mean that gold is going to lose its value over night.  Gold closing at $1477 doesn’t signal the end of the world, but if you tell that to gold investors you’re probably going to get a punch to the face followed by a stream of frenzied screaming.  Some people aren’t taking the news well, and they’re predicting a future slump in gold prices.


Cyprian Financial Crisis 2: Electric Boogaloo

You’re welcome.

It’s time to praise your economic gods, after days of tension the EU and the IMF have finally reached a deal to help bail out Cyprus.  On late Sunday/early Monday (kind of depends on which timezone you’re in) the powers that be approved a 10 billion euro (about $13 billion in dollars) plan that’s going to temporarily bring some big changes to the country.  Cyprus will be shutting down its second largest bank Laiki, and will be putting deposits under 100,000 euros into the Bank of Cyprus in hopes of creating a less awful bank.

Curious about what will happen to the bank’s larger deposits?  Deposits that are over 100,000 euros from both the Bank of Laiki and the Bank of Cyprus will be temporarily frozen and used to take care of the nation’s debts and to recapitalize the Bank of Cyprus.  By tomorrow the nation’s banks should be fully functioning, but it’ll be an extremely regulated functioning.  Some people wonder if Cyprus’ crisis will be the straw that broke the euro camel’s back.  Others wonder if this bail out deal will be the model for other European bail outs.  It’s too early to tell what far reaching affect the bail out deal will have, but there is one thing that’s certain in these uncertain times: the citizens of Cyprus are still pretty much screwed.


A Watered Down Explanation of the Cyprus Financial Crisis

Up until Monday if you asked the average person what they think about the situation in Cyprus, you’d probably get a confused glance and accusations that Cyprus isn’t a real country.  Today people know that the Republic of Cyprus does indeed exist because this small island nation is about to screw up the world economy.  This all happened kind of fast, so it’s okay if you aren’t exactly sure what’s going.  That’s why you have ROIZone to give you the basics of the situation.

It’s no secret that the European Union and the euro have been pretty much screwed since 2008.  Austerity didn’t work out as well as people had hoped it would, and some countries have gone a little crazy because of the financial stress.  You got people in Spain and Bulgaria self-immolating in front of banks, and Greece seems to be slowly morphing into the Fourth Reich.  Things are bad all over, but Cyprus is going through its own special financial hell right now.

In September 2011 Cyprus’ credit rating was downgraded by every major credit rating agency, and it had a ripple effect that nobody planned for.  Island nations are great for off-shore banking, and some of the world’s ruling class had their money safely tucked away in Cyprian bank accounts to protect it from their home government’s greedy hands.  It would be a gross exaggeration to say that all of Cyprus’ money was tied up in off shore accounts, but it was enough to cause some problems.  After the downgrade the wealthy couldn’t withdraw their money fast enough, and that combined with the massive debt banks held from Cyprus’ own citizens sent their banking industry into a downward spiral.

Cyprus would have gone under if it wasn’t for the kindness of the Russian government.  In January 2012 the Russian government loaned the nation 2.5 billion euros (about $3.236 billion) because they’re just cool like that.  It has a relatively low interest rate and its good for 4 ½ years, and Cyprus expected to be able to bounce back by the first quarter of this year.    Unfortunately in June 2012 Moody’s and Fitch downgraded their credit rating to complete crap, and that rating officially disqualified them for being accepted as collateral by the European Central Bank.


Actual shot of Putin rushing to save Cyprus (daaaaaaaaaaaaamn baby)

Cyprus spent the last months of 2012 and 2013 freaking the hell out, but last week it seemed like their troubles would be over.  The European Union and the International Monetary Fund agreed to a 10 billion euro deal with the country, allowing it to join the other European deadbeat countries of Portugal, Greece, Ireland, and Spain.  This hail-mary deal did come with a small stipulation.  Every bank deposit under 100,000 euros would have a levy of 6.7% imposed on them, and deposits that exceed that amount will have a 9.9% levy.

The bailout wasn’t met with much acclaim.  The Russian government isn’t happy.  EU countries aren’t happy.  The people of Cyprus aren’t happy, and since the bailout deal came to the table financial conditions have gotten worse in the country.  Businesses are refusing credit card payments, and as of today citizens haven’t had working banks in 11 days.

The powers that be in Cyprus and the EU are currently trying to hammer out a deal, and if you want to see how that’s going The Guardian has a great livestream of updates.  Until then all we can do is sit back and watch the financial explosion.


Apple Settles Lawsuit with Parents Who Got Smurfed in the Smurf From Expensive In-App Purchases

The village of the damned/smurfed

We’ve all been there before.  We’re stuck with a kid who can’t stop whining about being bored, needing food, or craving the love and discipline of an adult.  So to get them to shut up we hand them our iphone/ ipod/whatever electronic device and tell them to play something so we can shut them up.  We get a few hours a of peace, and then suffer from a few hours of abject horror when we get our monthly bill. We see that little Johnny spent $600 on smurf berries, and that a Steve Jobs clone is coming to punch our teeth down your throat if we don’t pay up.

That story may sound a bit farfetched, but if anything it isn’t insane enough to show the problem some parents were having with their kids finding and using “hidden” in-app purchases.  In 2011 Stephanie Kay was taken aback when she received a bill for $1400 from Apple in her inbox, and was presumably even more shocked when she realized that the bill wasn’t a bizarre prank.  Her 8 year old daughter was playing the Capcom game Smurfs’ Village, a game that her mother was able to download for free.  Kay wasn’t aware that the manufacturer made the game free, but chose to make certain items in the game cost money.  These weren’t little multi-use items that cost under $1.99, this game was happily charging its users $99 for a wagon of smurfberries and $19 for a freaking bucket of snowflakes.

It isn’t exactly news that there are free to play games that charge their users for special in game content, but people were particularly outraged that a game that’s marketed to children could have so many covertly hidden and expensive items.  Kay wasn’t the only parent who had lost hundreds of dollars to the smurfs and other cute shovelware games; there were tons of parents that were unknowingly letting their kids play games with absurdly expensive items.  Capcom eventually added a disclaimer to the Smurfs’ Village game:

PLEASE NOTE: Smurf Village is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.

But by the time they had posted it, it was already too late for some people.

Take my money Apple, I was only using it to make it rain on stockphoto models anyway

Since most apps didn’t require users to re-enter passwords to make in-game purchases, in 2011 rightfully pissed-off parents filled a lawsuit against Apple for making it too easy for kids to purchase in game goods.  Apple essentially changed their in-app purchasing systems in March of 2011, but by then most of the damage was already done.  In a surprising turn of events Apple ended up settling the lawsuit, but the U.S. district court judge who ruled the case is still ironing out the details.

Essentially users who spent more than $30 in in-app purchases can receive a cash refund after jumping through some hoops, and Apple will be required to notify the 23 million+ iTunes account holders who purchased content from certain games about the settlement.  Some people can expect to receive a $5 iTunes gift card for their troubles because Apple feels the need to give their loyal customers one final middle finger.


85th Academy Awards by the Numbers

It’s infographic time!



The Economic State of the Union

It’s freedom time baby

Tonight Barack Obama will be giving his first State of the Union speech since his re-election in 2012, and people have been spending a lot of time trying to anticipate what the president will say about certain issues.  There are so many big issues that need to be addressed tonight, but it seems like the bulk of Obama’s speech will focus on the economy.

Rutgers recently did a thoroughly depressing survey on jobs, and they found that 80% of Americans (that’s a PDF file link) have either lost a job or have had a loved one lose a job in the past few years.  In just the past week three major world events occurred that could heavily affect the stock market, and right now the US is looking for some economic reassurance and TLC from the Barack-Star.

The impending address has caused a lot of people to wonder if Obama has been able to keep any of the big promises he has made since he was elected.  Obama may have utterly failed to keep his promises about the environment and prosecuting big bankers, but at least he’s been able to make things slightly less impossible for small business owners.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that was designed to legalize crowd funding and lift restrictions on how small businesses can raise money was passed in April, but it’s still too soon to see if it has had any major impact.  The HIRE Act has been very popular with small businesses because of the credits and social security tax breaks businesses receive for hiring employees.  And depending on whom you ask, the jury is still out on whether or not the Affordable Health Care act will cause financial problems for small business owners.


US Department of Justice Files Suit Against S&P For Being Full of Terrible People

The global financial crisis happened in the fall of 2008 and in the beginning of 2013 we’re still looking for people to place the blame on.  Big banks have been sued for laughably small amounts and some companies have kicked out CEOs, but the most surprising 2008 crisis call out happened this past Monday.

Standard & Poor’s (that S&P thing media personalities occasionally mention when they’re giving out terrible investment advice) is a pillar of the American financial sector.  S&P has been around since 1860, they’re largest credit rating firm in the country, and they publish financial research and analysis on the stock market that people read like a fiscal holy book.

They’re also a division on The McGraw Hill Companies AKA: The people behind the worst text books ever

On Monday the US Justice Department filed civil fraud charges against the company, claiming that the company mislead the country by giving glowing appraisals to unstable securities and down played the true risk of the looming credit crisis that managed to screw up the global economy.  According to the government S&P misled investors by claiming their ratings and financial information was “uninfluenced by any conflict of interest”, when they pretty much were unabashedly promoting companies they held a financial stake in.  They claim that S&P’s desire to generate more money and earn more market share caused the company to grossly ignore the risks of shoddy investments from about 2004-2007.

Standard and Poor’s immediately went on damage control after the news broke and claimed that they totally knew that the US was gunning for them and they denied any wrong doing.  Their confidence of their innocence didn’t seem to help much since their stock plunged by a little over 20% less than 24 hours after the news became public.  The news of S&P’s impending suit was so bad that somehow the shares for Moody’s Corp, S&P’s main rival, to fall by 10.7%.

S&P’s most trumpeted innocence claim is that other credit rating companies managed to screw up as badly as they did.  Every mortgage-backed bond that the US Department of Justice review had received the same credit rating S&P gave from different rating agencies.  It’s also likely that they’ll defend their terrible mistakes by claiming their first amendment rights since their ratings are really their “opinions” and that they’re protected under the Constitution.  Luckily two federal judges have already claimed that any 1st amendment defense would be complete and utter crap.


Sandy Relief Bill Passed, Millions Still Wondering Why it Took Three Months to Do

In early January there was a lot of stuff going on for the House of Representatives.  For whatever reason they were expected to solve the fiscal problems their terrible decisions and political stubbornness caused, so they were

Actual picture of somebody being too busy

focusing on passing something to get the American people off of their backs.  Sometime around the end of December the Senate passed a $60 billion relief package for victims of Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy, but since there was a lot of stuff going on the House didn’t really have time to look it over.

On January 2nd John “The Weirdest” Boehner took time to politely explain that he totally intended to pass the relief bill in Congress, but since the House was super busy he was going to wait until the 113th Congress began.  His decision would mean that the Senate would have to draft and pass an entirely new bill for the 113th Congress, but since America is usually a pretty laid back guy he knew that he wouldn’t care.

Unfortunately Boehner wasn’t aware that America wasn’t as chill as he used to be.  America had thrown away his beer can collection, got a haircut, and was expecting the rest of his friends on the Hill to shape up and follow suit.

Come on America you used to be cool

It would be pretty unfair to claim that the Republican Party was solely responsible for the Sandy gaffe.  Even though quite a few Republicans felt pretty “meh” about helping Sandy victims, Peter “I Hate Foreigners” King (R-NY) and famously Chris “The Adonis” Christie (R-NJ) were pretty disgusted at the lack of action from the Hill.

To be fair some members of the House probably thought that their lack of action wouldn’t be noticed.  After all the country was sort of freaking out over the fiscal cliff, Obama’s re-election, and pop music loving teenage mothers, so they probably safely assumed that nobody would really care.  Unfortunately the thousands of Sandy victims who were homeless, bankrupt, and generally destroyed by the storm weren’t distracted by pop culture noise because they were more concerned with survival.  It literally took about a day for Boehner to say that he changed his mind and that they were going to vote on it soon.

After a few weeks of wondering why relief was taking so long, Barack Obama signed the Sandy relief bill into law on January 29th.  New Jersey’s   minority leader Steve “The Whiniest Liberal” Sweeney proposed a measure to appoint accountants and other officials to monitor the dispersal of the Sandy relief funds to ensure that they’re being used properly.  As you can imagine people are upset about this, but that is a blog post/rant for another day.



Detroit Homes Are Helping The Motor City’s Economic Woes

Either way it’s better than being America’s Crud Bucket

In geographic terms New Jersey may be America’s armpit, but when it comes to property value, safety, and human decency, Detroit takes the pit prize.  Out of all the American cities that experienced economic upheaval from the end of the country’s industrial days, Detroit has had it the worst.  They’re one of the poorest and most dangerous cities located in the Rust Belt, and Michigan’s State Treasurer Andy Dillon recently recommended that a financial review team be appointed to the city because of its massive economic problems.

Since the economic downturn in late 2008 people have heard very few encouraging stories about improvement in The Motor City.  We’ve heard about promising urban gardens and have seen many car commercials that have remixed Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in order to highlight the city’s tough nature, but it wasn’t until recently that some people saw a chance for true economic revival in the city.

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms spaghetti
There’s vomit on his spaghetti already,
Mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he
looks calm spaghetti
To drop bombs, but he keeps on spaghetti

The city’s glut of foreclosed homes has made it an investment haven for people who are interested in purchasing inexpensive and foreclosed properties.  Tax-delinquent property auctions have attracted both American and international investors to the city to scoop up some extremely cheap real estate.  Some people have paid as little as $500 for foreclosed property in the city, and if current trends continue one of America’s most troublesome cities could have a chance for some true economic revival.

In 2012 Wayne County sold 10,461 of the 18,897Detroit properties that were up for public auction. More than half of the homes sold for peanuts, and many savvy buyers have been trying to snag as many properties as they can.  It’s important to mention that these cheap properties aren’t only going to rich foreign investors or even rich American buyers, many Detroit residents have used the cheap home sales to build their own real estate nest egg.  In the previous link a Detroit native named Jasmine McMorris bragged about the 332 Detroit homes she has purchased over the past two years.  McMorris and other Detroit residents have purchased and repaired homes for a few thousand dollars, and have been able to earn ridiculously high returns on their property investments.

Dead or alive, you’re revitalizing the city with me!

Usually a large scale home buying spree can hurt local economies, usually because of unscrupulous landlords who rent their new properties and refuse to properly maintain them.  So far the mass property buy outs in the city have been beneficial, home prices in Detroit have actually been slowly rising.  In November 2012 home prices were up 3.4% from the previous year, and since over ¼ of Detroit properties are currently vacant it’s very likely that property values could improve in some of the city’s worst areas.

High property values can’t rescue a city from economic destruction, but it certainly does help.  If you’re looking for some houses to flip check out Detroit, or any of the other cities where there is an alarming amount of houses up for tax-delinquent property auctions.