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Was 2023 a tipping point for movies? ‘Barbie’ success and Marvel struggles may signal a shift | Culture

Eight years ago, Steven Spielberg predicted that the superhero movie would one day go “the way of the Western.”

Spielberg’s comments caused a widespread stir at the time. Avengers: The Age of Ultron was then one of the year’s biggest movies. The following year would bring Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The superhero movie was in high gear, and showing no signs of slowing down.

But Spielberg’s point was that nothing is forever in the movie business. These cycles, Spielberg said, “have a finite time in popular culture.” And the maker of E.T., Jurassic Park and Jaws might know a thing or two about the ebbs and flows of pop-culture taste.

As 2023 draws to a close, no one is sounding the death knell of the superhero movie. The Walt Disney Co.’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ made $845.6 million worldwide and Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($691 million) was one of the most acclaimed films of the year. Marvel is still mightier than any other brand in the business.

But more than ever before, there are chinks in the armor of the superhero movie. Its dominance in popular culture is no longer quite so assured. A cycle may be turning, and a new one dawning.

For the first time in more than two decades, the top three movies at the box office didn’t include one sequel or remake: Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Oppenheimer. The last time that happened was 2001, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Shrek and Monsters, Inc. topped the box office.

No, it’s not exactly a lineup of originality like, say, 1973, when The Exorcist, The Sting and American Graffiti led all movies in ticket sales. Barbie and The Super Mario Bros., based on some of the most familiar brands in the world, will generate spinoffs and sequels of their own.

But it’s hard not to sense a shift in moviegoing, one that might have reverberations for years to come for Hollywood.

“There’s an inflection point in 2023,” says Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for data firm Comscore. ” Barbenheimer is just one part of that story. Audiences, they want to be challenged. I think the tried and true is not necessarily working.”

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, from Warner Bros., was the year’s runaway hit, with more than $1.4 billion in ticket sales worldwide. It was a blockbuster like none seen before: an anarchic comedy that set a string of records for a movie directed by a woman.

Nearly as unprecedented was the success of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, a three-hour drama that nearly grossed $1 billion. As different as it and Barbie were, they were each original feats of cinema and personal statements by its directors.

At the same time, the Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel, a hit-making machine like none other in movie history, faltered like never before. The Marvels marked a new low for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, collecting $200 million globally. DC Studios, in the midst of a revamp, saw disappointing results for The Flash and Blue Beetle before watching Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom sink to a $28.1 million debut.

Both Marvel and DC have already made moves to right their ships. Bob Iger, Disney’s chief executive, has called turning around Marvel his top priority. He said the superhero studio has suffered greatly from too many films and series leading to “diluted quality.” The James Gunn, Peter Safran-led DC, meanwhile, won’t officially launch until 2025 with Superman Legacy.

In the meantime, something else will have to fill the void. That was a theme in 2023, too, when the writers and actors strikes marred release plans and forced the delay of several films including Warner’s Dune: Part Two, Sony’s next Ghostbusters movie and MGM’s Challengers.

Those disruptions will continue in 2024. Analysts aren’t expecting a banner year for Hollywood in part because films like the next Mission: Impossible film and the Spider-Verse sequel, both delayed by the strikes, won’t make their original dates.

Overall ticket sales in U.S. and Canadian theaters for 2023 are expected to reach about $9 billion, according to Comscore, an improvement of about 20% from 2022. The industry is still trying to regain its pre-pandemic footing, when ticket sales regularly surpassed $11 billion. Output of wide-releases in 2023 (88) still trailed those in 2019 (108) by 18.5%.

Hollywood is still coaxing moviegoers back to theaters — something Barbie, Oppenheimer and Mario went a long way to helping.

“It reinforced something that we’ve known for 100 years in the business: People like going to the shared experience out of the home,” says Jeffrey Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros. “They love being entertained. Movies are a good financial proposition and can bring in a mass audience.”

“It probably started with ‘Mario’ last April,” adds Goldstein. “I think that showed audiences again that theaters are a fun place to be to. And it showed studios and content creators: Up your game.”

If 2023 is any guide, hits will come from increasingly unpredictable places.

That was the case with Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, a film released just two months after Swift’s recorded concerts in a first-of-its-kind distribution deal with AMC Theatres. It grossed $250 million worldwide, and was followed by the similarly released Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, another No. 1 debut.

More surprising was Sound of Freedom, a $15 million film from the independent Angel Studios, which matched Swift with $250 million worldwide. It was released with a unique “pay it forward” program that allowed people to donate tickets.

Going into 2023, no one was betting Sound of Freedom would outgross The Marvels or that Five Nights at Freddy’s would have a bigger opening weekend than Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.

“There are going to be examples of big-budget, traditional blockbusters that do well,” says Dergarabedian. “But for every one of those, there have been two that failed. An audience that’s finding a lot of interesting material on streaming is becoming more open to films like ‘Godzilla Minus One,’ Indian cinema, Japanese anime. There’s a shift in audience taste and studios need to get a handle on this.”

That poses as much of a challenge as an opportunity to studios. If more-of-the-same no longer has quite the same appeal for moviegoers, an industry that for years has depended on sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes to make up the bulk of its profits may require new creativity.

The Western didn’t vanish all at once. After two decades of ubiquity, it began going out of style in the 1960s. And the Western, of course, continues to be rich territory for filmmakers. This year, 81-year-old Martin Scorsese made his first Western in Killers of the Flower Moon, the three-hour-plus $200 million epic from Apple Studios.

The superhero movie, likewise, won’t ever die. But its heyday might have reached its endgame.


Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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Culture

European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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— By Darren Wilson, Team VoiceOfEU.com

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