June 21 marked the summer solstice, a day celebrated for its symbolism of fertility and renewal. It also marked the beginning of a more lucrative summer movie season—or so the industry hopes.
The normally sizzling-hot parade of big-budget flicks has gotten off to a cold start this year, with most weekends’ box office sales coming in lower than last summer’s. Paramount’s latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie has brought in just over $72 million since it was released on June 3, a paltry sum for a film that cost $135 million to make. (Yes, Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures currently has bigger fish, er, turtles, to fry.) Even with Finding Dory‘s unequivocal success—the Pixar sequel had the biggest-ever opening weekend for an animated movie—last weekend’s top 12 films combined delivered just $226 million.
Who’s to blame? It could be that, Finding Dory aside, the reboots and sequels that have come out so far this summer just haven’t been that good. Or it could be that the ever-expanding queue of shows and movies you can now watch from your living room is providing more competition than previous summers. Even if your Game of Thrones stream failed last weekend, the HBO show’s latest episode still managed to attract about 7.7 million cable viewers. Netflix’s Orange is the New Black returned on June 17 (the company doesn’t disclose viewership numbers for particular shows, but has 81 million subscribers worldwide). And, of course, it’s been a crazy-hot summer for sports, both on TV and in arenas.
Speaking at the CineEurope conference in Barcelona earlier this week, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg remarked that there has been a transformation in live sports events that could be mirrored in the theater-going experience. “In the last 20 years in the U.S., major sports arenas have been rebuilt or new ones have replaced old ones,” Katzenberg said. “Sports have shown what can happen. Attendance at live events is through the roof. It’s a premium experience even if it’s interactive on more devices.”
Some theater companies have been investing in upgraded cineplexes, complete with more food and drink options and reclining chairs. A slew of upcoming movies could also help turn things around this summer. Over the next few weeks, we’ll see the release of the latest Independence Day flick, The Legend of Tarzan and Ghostbusters. Novel and original? Not quite. But then again, that’s no longer what the movie biz is about.
BITS AND BYTES
Elon Musk plans to combine two of his companies: SolarCity and Tesla. The deal proposed Tuesday—one worth an estimated $2.5 billion to $3 billion—would create a powerhouse in electric cars, solar panels, and energy storage (enabled by Tesla’s batteries). SolarCity is run by Musk’s cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, all of whom plan to recuse themselves from a shareholder vote on the transaction. By the way, Musk isn’t the first tech billionaire to merge two of his businesses—Larry Ellison did something similar in 2011 when Oracle bought Pillar Data Systems, in which he was the majority shareholder. (Fortune)
Feds publish commercial drone rules. The guidelines, which don’t automatically supersede existing state or municipal regulations, cover technology that weighs less than 55 pounds. They should make it simpler for businesses to use drones for applications such as inspections, aerial photography, and data gathering. Drones must always be within “line of sight,” which (for now) makes most schemes for package delivery unfeasible. (New York Times)
Adobe beats quarter, but full-year guidance disappoints. The software company’s second-quarter revenue grew more than 20% to $1.4 billion, buoyed by strong sales for the Creative Cloud service that includes its flagship Photoshop app and other digital media products. A big update for Creative Cloud was unfurled Tuesday. However, Adobe’s cautious outlook—it reiterated its financial guidance for the rest of the year rather than raise it—sent shares skidding around 5% in after-hours trading. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
Instagram’s audience doubles in two years. The photo-sharing app officially has more than 500 million users, more than 80% of whom live outside the United States. As of last September, it had 400 million. (Reuters)
Samsung will invest billions on Internet of things. The company plans to dedicate more than $1.2 billion over the next four years through its Silicon Valley operations. It has already made several related acquisitions, including last week’s buyout of cloud services company Joyent. (Reuters)
Verizon buys telematics startup Telogis. The software company, which raised about $126 million in venture backing before its acquisition, sells software for managing mobile workers and technology for connected vehicles from the likes of Ford, Volvo, and General Motors. (TechCrunch)
Too little, too late? Microsoft expands mobile payments service. The Microsoft Wallet app will initially work at more than 1 million physical store locations with the same sort of “tap and pay” feature offered through Apple Pay. (You touch your smartphone to a payment terminal for it to work.) Microsoft is pretty late to the game, considering that Apple has been building its own mobile payment service for two years. (Bloomberg)
Are robots people? In today’s strange-but-true category, there’s a proposal floating around in the European Union that would classify humanoids as “electronic persons.” The motivation appears to be an economic one: as more robots take over jobs from humans, tax revenue is at risk. (Reuters)
Banks go bonkers for biometrics. The list of financial services companies moving away from passwords is growing: users of mobile apps from Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo already use fingerprints to log into their accounts. Some are testing even more innovative methods, including technologies that recognize legitimate accountholders by their voice or through facial recognition. (New York Times)
Amazon cloud chief says new customers weigh many clouds but choose one. Andy Jassy, the Amazon long-timer who was promoted to CEO of Amazon Web Services in April, said many businesses consider using multiple cloud services to cover their computing needs but wind up deciding to go with just one.
Fortune‘s Barb Darrow reports that that runs counter to what she hears anecdotally—most of the big companies she talks to about cloud deployments are leery of putting all their eggs in one cloud basket. They feel that by using more than one cloud provider, they can keep the other provider honest. Most of these companies have faced vendor lock-in before and feel abused by IT suppliers that made it difficult to move to a rival product or even integrate their technology with that of another company. Here’s why Jassy swears AWS is different.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Elon Musk is not the first CEO to buy his other company
by Kia Kokalitcheva
Sean Parker funds first trials of revolutionary cancer treatment
by Laura Lorenzetti
Slack is making its workplace chat app even stickier by Heather Clancy
Here’s how much cash you’ll collect from Apple’s price-fixing case
by Don Reisinger
Google spreads its cloud into universities by Jonathan Vanian
Apple wins case over ‘Error 53’ wiped iPhones by Jeff John Roberts
Twitter and Vine videos get major overhaul by Don Reisinger
Uber will expand to office in the real Silicon Valley by Kia Kokalitcheva
Gladly is the latest cloud startup seeking to fix customer service
by Heather Clancy
ONE MORE THING
Microsoft is the best dividend stock on the Fortune 500. Its dividend grew 16% over the past three years, and double-digit increases are anticipated for the foreseeable future. For the past two quarters, it ranked among the top 10 dividend payers in the world—by dollars paid to shareholders. (Fortune)
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Heather Clancy.