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Data Sheet—Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Adam Lashinsky is on assignment. Michal Lev-Ram is a senior writer at Fortune.

When’s the last time you went to the movies? No, not the ones streamed right to your living room. I’m talking about the popcorn-stuck-to-the-bottom-of-your-shoes type of movies. You know, the kind that you view in an actual theater.

If it’s been awhile, you’re not alone. Movie-going, at least in North America, hasn’t exactly been on an explosive growth path in recent years. Even as the domestic box office passed the $11 billion mark for the first time in 2015, an increase of 8% from the year before, the number of tickets sold was up just 3.9%—the first annual increase since 2012. What’s more, about 31% of the population in North America didn’t even step foot in a theater last year, and an additional 10% saw just one flick.

Those numbers, courtesy of a new report from the Motion Picture Association of America, illustrate a disruptive and unstoppable trend in the entertainment business: Unlike theater attendance, the viewing options in consumers’ living rooms are exploding.

That’s amply evident in my own living room, where my Roku box provides a virtually endless assortment of quality content from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. The trend was also evident this week in Las Vegas, where I attended the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) convention—and won $80 at a blackjack table. Nearly every person I spoke to, from the CEO of IMAX to the head of NATO, championed the need to “get people off the couch.” And they especially championed the need to lure millennials to the theater—apparently, this demographic is particularly fond of their couches.

There are some signs of hope. Deadpool, dubbed the “ultimate superhero movie for millennials,” smashed box office records when it opened in February. The satirical movie, which The New York Times called the “scuzziest of this recent rash of comic-book adaptations,” has already grossed more than $350 million domestically. Then, of course, there is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which awakened many to the wonders of the shared movie-going experience and helped make 2015 a killer year when it came to box office revenue. The hotly anticipated flick has grossed nearly $936 million domestically to date, and more than $2 billion worldwide.

These hit movies aside, the larger trend is not going away. And I’m not convinced the theater industry has an answer.

Most of the innovations I saw at the NATO confab were iterative—think seats that recline and shake and vending machines that serve booze. Yes, screen technology has advanced. And yes, there are some movies I’ll always prefer to see in the theater. But the options in my living room are increasingly attractive. And most of the people attending and presenting at this week’s conference don’t want to touch real disruption—think Napster founder Sean Parker’s new movie-streaming venture, The Screening Room—with a 10-foot pole.

Instead, here is the industry’s take on the changes afoot, at least according to the Motion Picture Association of America’s CEO, Sen. Chris Dodd, who addressed the audience Tuesday morning: “Despite the noisy suggestions otherwise, the cinema provides a unique and powerful experience that just cannot be truly re-created elsewhere.”

That may be right, but my couch is pretty comfy.

Michal Lev-Ram

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PayPal co-founder raises $100 million for latest venture. Max Levchin’s consumer loans company, Affirm, has closed an additional round led by new investor Founders Fund. That boosts its total backing to $425 million. (Fortune)

Verizon workers walk out. As threatened, almost 40,000 workers from the telecommunications wireline and Internet divisions refused to show up for work on Wednesday. This is the third time since 2000 that unions there have called for a strike. The situation represents the biggest organized U.S. labor action in years. (Fortune)

Market forecaster cuts sales projections for virtual reality tech. SuperData Research predicts VR hardware and software will generate $2.86 billion in revenue this year, a 22% reduction over an estimate it published in early March. The adjustment reflects shipment delays for products from three high-profile companies: Oculus, Sony, and Samsung. The market should catch up to SuperData’s original projections by 2019. (Wall Street Journal)

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff takes a pay cut. The business software giant made “significant” changes to his pay package for the upcoming year. That included reducing Benioff’s total compensation by 16% from $33.4 million this year and tying more than half to performance-based, restricted stock grants. (Fortune)

Robot sales leap. Revenue from industrial robotics technologies grew more than 8% in 2015, driven by investments by automotive makers and Chinese manufacturing organizations. Indeed, China represented the single largest market, regionally speaking. (Reuters)

Uber (finally) details government data disclosures. The ride-sharing company traditionally has been reluctant to talk about what information about its customers it shares with federal agencies and regulators. Now, it intends to do so every six months. Most major tech firms report on this activity periodically. (Fortune)

EMC veteran will get top services job after mammoth merger. Howard Elias, one of the execs orchestrating the postmerger integration plan for Dell and EMC, will stay on as chief of the combined professional services organization. Elias joined EMC 13 years ago, after leaving Hewlett-Packard. (Fortune)

Napster founder donates $250 million to cancer research. Billionaire tech entrepreneur Sean Parker is founding an institute dedicated to accelerating advances in immunotherapy, which mobilizes the body’s natural defenses to fight the disease. Six leading cancer centers are on board. (Fortune)


Facebook bets big on bots, video, and alternate realities. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had plenty of things to talk about Tuesday during the social network’s annual developer conference F8 in San Francisco. At the top of his list was bots. After opening up its chat app Messenger to businesses last year, Facebook is now letting brands and companies build small artificial intelligence software programs that interact with Messenger users. Zendesk, for example, is already using the technology as the basis of new customer service apps.

Zuckerberg also talked up two other favorite topics: Facebook’s deeper investment in live video streaming services and its experiments with virtual and augmented reality technologies that can bring networks of people closer together. “It will take a long time for us to make this work,” he acknowledged.

Why should software developers care about these things? Because they’re making plenty of money on Facebook-related apps—an estimated $9.5 billion to date.


Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking are researching tiny interstellar space ships, called ‘nanocrafts’ by Robert Hackett

Hubspot (finally) responds to Dan Lyons’ book by Dan Primack

These 5 famous cities still don’t have Uber by Jeff John Roberts

IPO buzz builds behind Domo by Heather Clancy

This is why shares of Juniper Networks are sliding by Lucinda Shen

Dude, you’re getting a Mac by Aaron Pressman

It’s impossible to find out if self-driving cars are safe by Erik Sherman

HTC cranks it to 10 with latest smartphone by Jason Cipriani

IBM wants to create the ultimate cancer adviser by Laura Lorenzetti


Meet the “textalyzer.” Some New York lawmakers think police officers would benefit from a gadget that can gauge more specifically whether someone was texting or talking on their smartphone right before an accident. Drivers could lose their license for refusing to take the distracted driving test. (Fortune, Ars Technica)

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.