Monday, July 12, 2021

The state of movie theaters

What is the state of the movie theater? DEADLINE reports:

Overall revenue for the North American box office totaled $117 million for the weekend, the highest since President’s Day weekend in mid-February of 2020. Black Widow opened domestically at $80 million. But the gross dropped on Saturday from Thursday/Friday way more than usual for a Marvel title and the question is how much Disney+ Premier Access was behind that erosion.
Disney reported $60 million of revenue from its streaming platform — the first time its revealed these stats. “Disney is clearly pleased with this outcome, especially since it does not have to share any meaningful part of this income with partners,” said analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.
Specifically, as per Deadline, Black Widow‘s Saturday saw a huge 41% drop from its near $40M opening Friday (which included Thursday previews).
Disney stock closed up 4.15% Monday. The hybrid release was clearly a benefit but what remains to be seen the the impact on future downstream windows. Handler notes that some 2 million households — about 60-80 million people, he speculated — have already seen the movie at home.

As I noted this weekend in "BLACK WIDOW," we went ahead and watched it from home. It was basically $30. It wanted -- DISNEY+ wanted -- me to put in my credit card information for ROKU (I have a ROKU TV) but I didn't. I got on the laptop and purchased it at Disney+ proper which already has my credit card information. It immediately reflected this purchase on the TV screen -- I was surprised by how quickly. We had no streaming problems. We did have with THE TOMORROW WAR the week before and gave up trying to watch it the Friday it came out as a result. But we had no such problem with DISNEY+.

I've always argued that I would pay a little more to see a movie at home while it was in the theaters. There are some movies I'd just rather not be around a bunch of rowdy high schoolers while I'm watching.

DISNEY's $80 million. Probably only $40 million went to them. They have to split with the theaters. Theaters get bigger percentage the longer something plays. But the $60 million all went to DISNEY. 

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

 Monday, July 12, 2021.  Kidnappers release an activist and the prime minister lies that Iraqi forces 'liberated' the activist (Ali al-Mikdam), various figures rush to be photographed with him, an Iranian-linked militia in Iraq claims responsibility for a bombing targeting US interests, and much more.

Yesterday, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby appeared on Chris Wallace's FOX NEWS program where he rejected the claim that US boots on the ground in Afghanistan gave the US leverage and, without those boots, the US had no leverage.

“You had this argument that somehow if you have boots on the ground all of a sudden you have all this leverage has not panned out the last five, 10, 15 years, Chris, when we had 100,000 troops on the ground. So the idea that if you have boots on the ground all of a sudden that gives you leverage has not exactly been the historical record so far,” Kirby told host Chris Wallace.

He went on to say that the US has “diplomatic leverage.”

“We are still involved in trying to broker forward a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. And nothing has changed about our commitment to that. And the rest of the international community also needs to stay committed to that kind of an outcome so … that this kind of progress doesn’t fall by the wayside,” Kirby said.

Staying with that topic for a second more, David R. Sands (WASHINGTON TIMES) reports:

Departing American troops may soon have to return to Afghanistan as the security situation deteriorates and the Taliban step up their offensive against the U.S.-backed Kabul government, a key lawmaker said Sunday.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran who flew missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he agreed with media characterizations that the U.S. and allied pullout from the country after a 20-year deployment as a “crushing defeat” at the hands of the Taliban insurgency.

Noting that the U.S. military is still stationed in former hot spots such as Kosovo, Mr. Kinzinger criticized the drive by former President Donald Trump and President Biden to pull out the roughly 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, saying there was no sign the Taliban were breaking ties with al Qaeda or fulfilling other promises made in the February 2020 deal that set the timetable for the American withdrawal.

As we've already noted, a return after a drawdown was something reporters voiced repeatedly to John Kirby at a Pentagon press briefing early last week. And, of course, it is a possibility.  RAW STORY -- excuse me, the always ridiculous RAW STORY runs with a wire story that they created a headline for insisting that Biden has ended the forever wars . . . by following Donald Trump's plan.  But he hasn't ended anything.  And the drawdown in Iraq that was passed off as a withdrawal under Barack Obama didn't mean the end of the Iraqi War.  As the late Senator Kay Hagan pointed out in real time, a large number of US troops were just being shifted to Kuwait on stand-by.  And all US troops weren't leaving.  Then in the fall of 2012, Barack began quietly sending US troops back in.  First, special-ops and then, by 2014, very visibly sending ground forces back in.

Tom Hayden whored for Barack.  He can never get back that moment.  He could have stood for peace but he disgraced himself . . . again.  All he offered from 2007 forward was disgrace.  Did Laura Flanders mocking him on AIR AMERICA RADIO really send him into retreat?  She referred to his plans to try to build peace as being pen pals with terrorists.

Tom's plan was worth considering but that was the last time he ever offered anything of value.  Soon he was pimping Barack -- Barack who publicly ridiculed "Tom Hayden Democrarts."  He refused to call out Barack when he began breaking his promise on the campaign trail or, in March of 2008, when then advisor Samantha Power made clear that there was no promise on Barack's part to pull US troops out of Iraq on any kind of time table.  He knew it in real time.  I know because we talked about it in real time and that was a very loud conversation.  He wanted to whore for Barack.  I argued that the Iraqi people needed to be at the forefront of any peace effort but he was just willing to put all his chips on Barack.  Then, in July of 2008, he had a little fit and acted -- at HUFFINGTON POST -- like he'd just heard about Samantha Power's remarks from months ago.

Tom's dead now.  US forces remain in Iraq.  The Iraqi people continue to suffer.  Tom's dead so it doesn't matter to him and, thanks to his actions -- or inactions -- he doesn't matter at all either.  Just another dead whore for the Democratic Party.

Back to Kirby's appearance -- hopefully it means something that he's noting there are other measures that can be taken including diplomatically.  Hopefully, this also means that reality transfers over to decisions with regards to Iraq.

As we noted in last week's snapshots, Congress was pressuring Joe for 'action' in response to ongoing attacks against US troops and facilities and convoys in Iraq.  Democrats have been doing so privately.  Republicans have now gone public with their insistence that retaliatory strikes be carried out.  

What do they think such attacks will do?

The end of June strike on the militia didn't result in peace.  It only spurred the militias on, they now carry out many more attacks.  What is the end goal for another strike and why aren't we asking if there are other response than "drop more boms"?

It's a question to ask.  PRESS TV notes an attack on Sunday in Iraq;

Reporting on Sunday, Iraqi news outlets said the attacks targeted the convoys in the city of Babylon in central Iraq, and the cities of Basra and al-Diwaniyah in the country’s south.

The first attack has so far not been claimed by any group or individual. 

However, Saraya Awlia al-Dam, a subdivision of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) or Hashd al-Sha’abi umbrella anti-terror force, has claimed the Basra strike. 

It said it conducted the attack on the convoy as it was crossing a path known as Jarishan, which is under the control of so-called foreign security companies.

The Iranian outlet tries to call the Iranian-linked militia groups "resistance fighters."  You can't be government forces and be resistance fighters.  It doesn't work that way.  The militia was folded into the government forces some time ago.  And, yes, PRESS TV is damn well aware of that fact.  Why they feel the need to lie is a question to put to them.

As Iraq is gripped by the summer heat, water becomes a real issue.  AFP reports:

As Iraq bakes in the blistering summer heat, its hardscrabble farmers and livestock herders are battling severe water shortages that are killing their animals, fields and way of life.

The oil-rich country, scarred by wars and insurgencies over the past four decades, is also one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change and struggles with a host of other environmental challenges.

Upstream dams in Turkey and Iran have diminished the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which are also heavily polluted with sewage, waste and agricultural runoff as they flow southeast through Iraq.

Drought has hit the Mesopotamian marshes, where water buffalos and their owners once found respite from summer heat above 50 degrees Celsius.

In southern Iraq, where the two big streams merge into the Shatt al-Arab, the reduced flow has caused saltwater intrusion from the Gulf, degrading the waterway that is shaded by lush palm groves on its banks.

Iraq and Iran share a border.  Some idiots who comment on 'the left' don't grasp that reality.  Or the reality that water is a serious issue that will only get more serious due to climate change.  In 2003, Danny Schechter and I discussed that topic as we kept bumping into each other on various campuses (he was exhibiting his documentary WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION because a third person we kept bumping into had directed a film on the water issue and what it meant for the near future -- wars over water.  It's amazing that issues so obvious so many years ago are still not grasped by the small faction on the left that wants to turn the Iranian government into a saint and a deity.  I'm not here to demonize the government -- don't do dualities -- but I'm not here to be dishonest about it either.  There are serios disputes over water between Iraq and Iran.  That's a reality.  MEMO notes:

Iraq has called on Iran to respect its rights amid a water dispute between the two neighbours, reported Anadolu Agency.

Baghdad blames Tehran for changing the course of rivers that flow into the Tigris and Euphrates, as well as building dams in contravention to international law.

"The Iranians have not shown any [positive] response and still cut off water from the Sirwan, Karun, Karkheh and Alwand rivers and streams, causing severe damage to the residents of Diyala [province in eastern Iraq] who rely on water coming from Iran," Water Resources Minister Mahdi Rashid al-Hamdani said.

The heat will cause tensions between Iraq and Iran to increase as it will between Iraq and Turkey.  It has also resulted in protesters spilling out into the streets yet again.  AFP reported Saturday:

Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated on Friday in several southern towns and at a government-run power plant against prolonged electricity cuts as the mercury soars.

“We want electricity to be restored and if it isn’t we’re not leaving this plant. We’re going to stay put and shut it down,” demonstrator Diaa Wady said outside Al-Khairat electricity station near Karbala.

The predominantly male crowd surrounded and attacked the car of an official, smashing its rear window and shouting.

“We are peaceful protesters who are here only for our rights. Our demand is for electricity to return and if it doesn’t we’ll bring our tents and camp out,” said frustrated demonstrator Sajjad Aoun Al-Kiriti.

Let's move over to activist Ali al-Mikdam.  Who?

Those close to Iraqi activist and journalist Ali Al-Mikdam say they’ve lost contact with him, as he was last seen at the Ridha Alwan Café in Karrada yesterday. Al-Mikdam has been threatened previously due to his criticisms of multiple parties and militias. (1/2)

It’s been more than 24 hours that Ali Al-Mikdam has disappeared in Baghdad. He is an outspoken journalist & activist who participated actively in Iraq’s 2019 protests. In our latest documentary, Ali openly blamed Iran-backed groups for the killing of Iraqi protesters & activists.

Activists now fear that, after receiving repeated threats, Ali al-Mikdam may have been kidnapped by Iran-backed Iraqi militias.

2:30 PM · Jul 10, 2021

Ali al-Mikdam, a prominent voice in the anti-government protest movement, was last seen in a coffee shop in Baghdad on Friday

9:30 AM · Jul 10, 2021

1. The #violations against the Iraqi people persists. Ali al-Mikdam, an Iraqi freelance #journalist, #activist and #writer has #disappeared and was last seen Friday 9 July 2021, around 5 PM, at the Ridha Alwan Cafe in #Karrada, #Baghdad.

He is now in a hospital.  Mustafa Kadhimi is attempting to Jessica Lynch him -- use him for political purposes and use him with lies.  Mustafa's Tweeted that security forces rescued him.  No.  As usual, Mustafa's ineptitude helped no one.

Sura Ali (RUDAW) reports 

Ali al-Mikdam, activist and journalist, was tortured by his kidnappers before they released him, according to a source close to him. The source said Mikdam was not freed by security forces, as has been reported.
Mikdam, 22, is an Iraqi activist who participated in the October 2019 protest movement and a campaign to end impunity that is planning demonstrations inside and outside the country for July 18. He was in Baghdad this week and went missing on Friday evening.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mikdam's kidnappers let him go, leaving him close to the al-Dora highway south of Baghdad. Mikdam made his way to the nearest security checkpoint where they brought him to hospital.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Mikdam on Saturday night in hospital, checking “on the health of journalist and activist Ali al-Mikdam in one of Baghdad’s hospitals after security forces released him from his kidnappers,” the PM's office tweeted.

The source told Rudaw English on Sunday that “Ali was severely tortured, he cannot walk, and security forces don’t want us to say that he was not liberated by them."

Ruba Ali al-Hassani Tweets:

Direct testimony from Ali al-Mikdam: the kidnappers released me; security forces did not free me. Kidnappers released me on the road, & I walked to the next inspection point where I sought assistance from security forces there to hospitalize me for torture injuries. #Iraq

Mustafa's attempt to lie to the Iraqi people should be a huge international story. And before he disappears the Tweet, here it is from his official account:

رئيس مجلس الوزراء يطمئن على صحة الصحفي والناشط علي المگدام في احدى مستشفيات بغداد، بعد أن حررته القوات الأمنية من خاطفيه .

Again, Ali has been Jessica Lynch-ed, used as a prop and lied about.  Jessica Lynch was not a liar.  She told the truth.  The US government was the liar -- that needs to be made clear because that was some time ago and, from time to time, some stupid idiot attempts to blame her.  She was very clear about what happened and very strong in rebuking the lies.  

The United Nations' Jeanine Hennis Tweets:

Wishing journalist a speedy recovery. We salute his courage and determination, and condemn cowardly aggressions that threaten a pillar of democracy: freedom of expression.

The Tweets being mocked on social media where many feel that the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq has done very little in her position to improve the lives of the Iraqi people.

He was also visited by Ammar al-Hakim.

Ammar is a Shi'ite cleric and political figure who, since 2917, has headed the National Wisdom Movement. 

Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) notes:

After taking office in May last year, Mr Al Kadhimi promised to investigate the killings and abductions and bring those responsible to justice, but with little success so far.

A commander in the PMF, Qassem Musleh, was arrested in May over the killing of the activist Ihab Al Wazni in Karbala earlier in the month, sparking a stand-off between the militias and state security forces. The courts ordered his release weeks later, citing a lack of evidence.

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