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Marvel’s Amazing Spider-Man Maneuver

(First published on 7/7/17 on 5ish Links, my newsletter)

It’s opening weekend for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Ben Fritz takes a look at what it took to get this latest — and quite different — installment made:

The Spider-Man franchise has had dual masters since 1999, when Sony bought big-screen rights to the character from Marvel, then an independent company. The deal gave the comic-book publisher 5% of film revenue and called for the two companies to split revenue from related Spider-Man merchandise.

The first movie Sony made under the arrangement, 2002’s “Spider-Man,” was a massive hit, grossing $822 million world-wide, as were the 2004 and 2007 sequels. But ticket sales declined for a poorly received 2012 reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and its sequel, which grossed a weak $709 million in 2014.

In a 2011 renegotiation designed to resolve years of behind-the-scenes legal disputes and provide Sony with much-needed cash, the Japanese company gave up its share of merchandise rights while Marvel, Disney-owned by that time, agreed to forgo its 5% of film revenue and make a one-time payment of $175 million and pay up to $35 million for each future film.

The renegotiation seems like a smart move. But it’s also pretty crazy — the WSJ headline here is absolutely true: Sony is making a movie that will allow Disney to sell toys. And both sides are — and should be! — happy with that.

But the next move was key:

As Sony executives struggled with their next move for the character after “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” Marvel lobbied to take back creative control. A team led by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige that made the hits “Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” figured they could make a better movie, generating higher box-office and toy sales. Sony agreed in 2015, a little more than two months after a huge cyberhack revealed that talks were ongoing and after much internal debate, according to current and former employees.

No money changed hands under the deal. The only tweak to the prior arrangement was that in exchange for its producing services, Marvel gets to reduce the $35 million it would owe on “Homecoming” if the movie grosses more than $750 million, said people with knowledge of the arrangement.

Which it absolutely will given that it’s actually good — undoubtedly thanks to Feige and team. Another savvy move by Disney.

Still some weirdness ahead, potentially:

The studio is also planning to take advantage of “Homecoming” by launching its own related but distinct cinematic universe using its rights to more than 900 characters who have appeared in Spider-Man comics. In addition to an animated Spider-Man feature, it is working on “Venom,” an anti-hero who will be played by Tom Hardy, for release next year and “Black Cat and Sable,” about a pair of super-heroines.

The way this reads is that Feige/Marvel won’t be helping with these. Which is worrisome, to say the least. And also odd since other comments made by Feige seem to indicate that Spider-Man (and presumably his larger universe) will be a key part of kicking off the next Marvel cinematic universe broader story arc.

Regardless, I just hope the inevitable success of this new Spider-Man kicks Fox in the ass to also team up with Marvel for X-Men. Yes, Logan — Hugh Jackman’s swan song — was fantastic. But X-Men: Apocalypse was not good. The core films are heading in the wrong direction. It could be time for the two universes to collide in the 2020s…

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03tesla3 sub facebookjumbo

Tesla’s First Mass-Market Car, the Model 3, Hits Production This Week

Neal E. Boudette on the big day — today — for Tesla:

Tesla said production of its first midpriced car, the Model 3, would begin on Friday, two weeks earlier than planned, with the first deliveries on July 28.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said late Sunday on Twitter that production would increase quickly, with 100 Model 3s produced in August and 1,500 or more in September. He said that he expected the company to be able to produce 20,000 a month starting in December.

Given that basically everyone had expected Tesla to delay the launch — as they had with other vehicles in the past — getting the ball rolling early would seem to be a very good sign (even with — or maybe especially because of — other manufacturing issues).

Until now, the company has manufactured luxury cars in relatively small numbers, typically selling them for $90,000 or more. In 2016, it made about 85,000 vehicles. General Motors, by contrast, produced more than nine million cars and light trucks.

The Model 3 will be priced around $35,000. Mr. Musk envisions it reaching a much wider range of customers and has said he expects it to push Tesla’s output to 500,000 cars a year in 2018.

Yes, the volume context is important — but increasingly less so as the legacy guys go one way and Tesla continues to go the other.

And even more news today — on the non-car side of things — seems to have The Leviathan rolling…

Nationals marlins baseball 99113 04c0e
Nationals marlins baseball 99113 04c0e

Baseball moves way too slowly. Is it time for a pitch clock?

George F. Will:

One of the six games of the 1948 Boston-Cleveland World Series was 1 hour and 31 minutes; the average, 2 hours. This year the average nine-inning game is 3 hours and 4 minutes, up 4 minutes from last year and 14 minutes from 2010. MLB’s worry, however, is less the length of games than that the length has increased as action — batters putting balls in play — has decreased.

Could you imagine if baseball games were routinely 90 minutes? I would definitely watch — and go to — a lot more of them. And most importantly for baseball, I would pay the same ticket price to go. Of course, shorter game times on television would undoubtedly mean fewer advertisements — but if more people overall were watching as a result… Anyway, Will’s point about fewer balls being put in play is an interesting one.

This year the average time between pitches has increased a full second, to 23.7. With about 300 pitches per game, this deadens things. Manfred says 67 percent of today’s major league pitchers worked under a pitch clock in the minor leagues. Soon, perhaps next year, a clock will require major league pitchers to deliver the ball within 20 seconds (15 would be better) after getting it back from the catcher. This will strengthen the rule requiring batters to stay in the batter’s box between pitches. (A whimsical proposal: Ban batting gloves. No one, from Ty Cobb through Ted Williams, used them, and now they occasion time-consuming fidgets.)

There should be limits on catchers’ traipsing to the mound. (In Game 2 of last year’s World Series, there were 13 hits and 14 mound visits.) Do warmed-up relief pitchers really need eight more warm-up pitches when they reach the mound? MLB packs too many commercials into breaks between half-innings — 2 minutes 5 seconds in the regular season, a minute more in the postseason. In a July 25 game, MLB will experiment with breaks of 1 minute 20 seconds.

The pitch clock basically has to happen at this point. There will be a fear of more injuries, of course, but many of the best pitchers in baseball are already the fastest to deliver. The trimming of commercials is decidedly more interesting to me. But I’m not holding my breath

Also nuts:

This season, more than 30 percent of at-bats are ending with walks or strikeouts.

(via REDEF)

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Cameron crowe on singles reissue 59fe3219 422d 492b b3fb 5cfb8018093c

Cameron Crowe on Chris Cornell, ‘Singles’ Soundtrack, Grunge Beginnings

Lots of gems in this interview by Alexis Sottile of director Cameron Crowe looking back on his (awesomely 90s) film, Singles:

You said Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust” was like the soul of the movie. What was your relationship with the band like during the film?

Pearl Jam became Pearl Jam while we were making the movie. They were Mookie Blaylock when we started. When we started, they barely had a lead singer, I think they had just brought Eddie up from San Diego. Jack Irons had turned them on to Eddie’s audition tape, and they brought him up. So Eddie was kind of falling in love with them, and they were falling in love with Eddie, and it was fun to take Eddie into this world too; he was joining this band and playing bigger shows and then we gave Jeff Ament a job in our art department. And we used his font on the title cards in the movie, his hand-written font was so great. I think he’s still disappointed that his Joe Perry Project poster got stolen from the wall of one of the apartments [laughs].

A crazy moment in time captured in a feature film. Also, loved those Jeff Ament fonts as a kid — had them on my PC and would use it for everything.

Anyway, Jeff Ament had designed this solo cassette which we thought was hilarious because it had all of these cool song titles like “Flutter Girl,” and “Spoonman,” and just like a really true-type “I’ve lost my band, and now I’m a soulful guy — these are my songs now” feeling. So we loved that Jeff had played out the fictitious life of Cliff Poncier. And one night, I stayed home, and Nancy, we were then married, she went out to a club, and she came back home, and she said, “Man, I met this guy, and he was selling solo cassettes, and so I got one for you.” And she hands me the Cliff Poncier cassette. And I was like, “That’s funny, haha.” And then she said, “You should listen to it.” So I put on the cassette. And holy shit, this is Chris Cornell, as Cliff Poncier, recording all of these songs, with lyrics, and total creative vision, and he has recorded the entire fake, solo cassette. And it’s fantastic. And “Seasons” comes on. And you just can’t help but go, “Wow.” This is a guy who we’ve only known in Soundgarden. And of course he’s incredibly creative, but who’s heard him like this? And we got to use “Seasons” on the soundtrack, and Chris did some of the score. And some of the unreleased score is on the new version of the album.

First of all, “Nancy” is Nancy Wilson, of Heart. Second, I had no idea that’s how “Spoonman” came to be — as a quasi-joke.

Did you learn anything from putting together the Say Anything soundtrack that you brought to the Singles soundtrack?

That’s a good question. I started doing soundtracks with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and I really, really loved how music could enhance a scene. And there was a moment when we had a scene that was kind of jarring that didn’t really work, and I found a song that worked in this one scene. I guess, there’s a scene about premature ejaculation in Fast Times and it’s kind of an awkward scene but there was this Jackson Browne song called “Somebody’s Baby,” that he’d written for the movie. And we didn’t know where to put it, and I tried it in this scene which seems kind of incongruous. But what it ends up doing is kind of capturing the whole anguished feeling of the scene and so this kind of upbeat song totally caught this guy’s embarrassment. And I was just hooked — I was hooked on the possibilities of music and film, and also I’d loved Mike Nichols’ stuff as a little guy, and he was the king for having used Simon and Garfunkel in The Graduate. And so this was like a little Graduate moment that happened. And Singles felt like an opportunity to really fly into the arms of that feeling. And Say Anything was one step further than Fast Times. And so then I started writing music into the stories more and then that opened the door for Almost Famous. There kind of has been a straight line through all of the movies that the music and choosing the music has been the secret love.

This is something Crowe has always been excellent with — even in his less-than-excellent films.

Pretty much everybody there realized that it was coming from the right place and that serendipity caused the whole scene to sort of explode around it. I think the only people who were part of it originally and then pulled out were Nirvana, for a number of reasons. Part of it was maybe not wanting to be part of the crowd, and then maybe the other part was that they had been getting hit on by everybody at that point. But I heard later that Kurt and Courtney snuck in to the premiere, that somebody let them in through the exit door at the back of the theater, and that they came in and watched it. I always thought that was pretty great, that that night, Kurt Cobain was also in the room.

Also had no idea about Nirvana’s potential involvement. It really does feel like the only nod missing in the film…

The walking dead season 7 episode 1
The walking dead season 7 episode 1

AMC’s Weird Paid-On-Top-Of-Paid Offering

Andrew Wallenstein:

Comcast is allowing the 19 million subscribers currently paying for its Xfinity TV service to begin accessing AMC Premiere, a new offshoot of the cable network that allows subscribers to pay $5 per month to watch its shows live but without ads. In addition, AMC Premiere will be loaded with exclusive companion content and a tier of movies supplemental to what AMC already offers.

If the shows are “live” what do they show when the rest of the “live” world sees the ads? Or do those paying for this simply finish the shows before the “live” non-paying (well, non-paying beyond cable) television viewers?

All of this continues to make no sense to me. AMC has it exactly backwards. And it’s an exclusive with Comcast?! But:

But what if AMC Premiere allowed users to watch episodes before they were available on the linear channel, as HBO Now occasionally does? Or better yet: What if AMC began to make original shows that only appeared on AMC Premiere and not on the linear channel?

This (suggestion from Wallenstein, not AMC), does makes some sense to me. Pay to access content early (without ads). And, eventually, original content not on cable. But can AMC pull off the end-run-around this way?


Seriously, What Are We Even Doing?

The Onion (which operates “StarWipe”) for the win once again:

Kylie Jenner is, again of course, the daughter of Kris Jenner — the widow of O.J.’s late attorney who remarried Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner) — and thus the half-sister to Rob Kardashian. Again, we know all of this, despite any pretense to resistance. This is forcibly ingrained in our culture, along with the perception that this family’s messily intertwined lives constitute compelling drama. At this website, we wake up every morning and pore over it, looking for new, incredibly incremental information to share with you about it.

Fake news gets all the outrage these days, and probably rightfully so. But I’d also argue that bullshit news is damaging our society. Not “bullshit” in that it’s fake, but “bullshit” in that it’s a complete and utter waste of time and brain cells. People try to chalk this up to “entertainment” but let’s be honest, it’s bullshit. People are reading news about people who are famous not for any discernible skill or talent other than being famous.

What the fuck are we doing? What even is this? How much longer can we possibly unpack this Matryoshka nesting doll family until we realize that there’s nothing inside but more pretty, empty figures we don’t remember buying to display on our collective cultural mantle, for reasons we can no longer recall?


Giphy Break

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Image for post

Quickish Hits

Super Teams vs. Stable Teams

This post in The Economist fascinating — with ramifications beyond sports. Does team cohesion and familiarity matter just as much — or more — than having “super teams” filled with superstars…

There’s No Money in Internet Culture

I don’t agree with all of this, but a lot of this. In particular, the conclusion.

Why Some Men Don’t Work: Video Games Have Gotten Really Good

It’s like we’re living in The Matrix without The Matrix… Too esoteric?

3D printers: the factories of the future

A rare case where it’s not hyperbole to say this will change everything. All the hype for years was on 3D printing for the home, but this is the real deal.

Written by

General Partner @ GV (née Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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