Hollywood struggles against new film meccas
LOS ANGELES (AP) — In the old days, filmmakers flocked to Hollywood for its abundant sunshine, beautiful people and sandy beaches. But today a new filmmaking diaspora is spreading across the globe to places like Vancouver, London and Wellington, New Zealand.
Fueled by politicians doling out generous tax breaks, filmmaking talent is migrating to where the money is. The result is an incentives arms race that pits California against governments around the world and allows powerful studios —with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal— to cherry-pick the best deals.
The most recent iteration of the phenomenon came earlier this month when James Cameron announced plans to shoot and produce the next three “Avatar” sequels largely in New Zealand. What Cameron gets out of the deal is a 25 per cent rebate on production costs, as long as his company spends at least $413 million on the three films.
Hollywood poised for best-ever box-office year
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Despite a string of summertime flops, Hollywood is expected to have a banner year at the domestic box office, coming in just shy of $11 billion, the largest annual take ever. But because of higher ticket prices, actual attendance at North American theatres remained flat after a decade of decline.
With the current domestic box-office tally nearly 1 per cent ahead of last year at this time, 2013 could surpass 2012’s overall haul of $10.8 billion by more than $100 million, according to box-office tracker Rentrak.
Target: Customers’ encrypted PINs were stolen
ATLANTA (AP) — Target said Friday that debit-card PINs were among the financial information stolen from millions of customers who shopped at the retailer earlier this month.
The company said the stolen personal identification numbers, which customers type into keypads to make secure transactions, were encrypted and that this strongly reduces risk to customers. In addition to the encrypted PINs, customer names, credit and debit card numbers, card expiration dates and the embedded code on the magnetic strip on back of the cards were stolen from about 40 million credit and debit cards used at Target stores between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.
Security experts say it’s the second-largest theft of card accounts in U.S. history, surpassed only by a scam that began in 2005 involving retailer TJX Cos.
Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan said Friday that the PINs for the affected cards are vulnerable and people should change their codes since such data has been decrypted, or unlocked, before.
Predictions from market experts for 2014
NEW YORK (AP) — It is an understatement to say stock market investors had a good year in 2013. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index soared 29 per cent, its best year since 1997. Including dividends, it gained 32 per cent.
What lies ahead? The AP asked leading market analysts and investment managers where they see the Standard & Poor’s 500 index winding up by the end of 2014 and why.
GE study: No need to expand Hudson River cleanup
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — General Electric Co. said Friday a study requested by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli shows no need for it to voluntarily expand dredging already underway in a portion of the upper Hudson River contaminated with PCBs.
GE said the scientific and legal analysis shows wildlife in the area is healthy, and any concern about the company getting hit with future liabilities for environmental damage is speculative.
DiNapoli had asked for the review in a shareholder resolution as trustee of the state pension system. He withdrew the resolution after Fairfield, Conn.-based GE agreed to the study earlier this year.
Environmentalists have long been pressing for additional dredging of contaminated sections outside the current Superfund cleanup site north of Albany.
CEO of Hyundai’s North America operations resigns
John Krafcik, the president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, is stepping down next week after five years at the helm, the company announced Friday. He will be replaced by David Zuchowski, the current executive vice-president of sales who joined the company in February 2007.
When Krafcik became CEO of American operations in 2008, the South Korean automaker’s cars were ugly and often broke down. During his tenure, he pushed through quality, style and fuel efficiency improvements to help drive up sales. Hyundai Sonata midsize cars and Elantra compacts became top sellers and multiple models garnered the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick designation.
Hyundai had already started to change before Krafcik arrived, offering a 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty with its cars. But the transformation from joke to juggernaut accelerated under his watch. Krafcik didn’t just focus on the engine but how people used their cars as personal living spaces.
1.3 million losing unemployment benefits Saturday
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm election year.
Nudging Congress along, a vacationing President Barack Obama called two senators proposing an extension to offer his support. From Hawaii, Obama pledged Friday to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
GM to recall 1.5M cars in China to replace bracket
BEIJING (AP) — General Motors Co. and its main Chinese partner will recall almost 1.5 million cars to replace a bracket that secures a fuel pump, China’s product quality agency said Friday.
The agency said the recall affects 1.2 million Buick Excelles made from 2006 through part of 2012 and 250,000 Chevrolet Sails produced between April 2009 and October 2011 and some made last year.
The bracket to be replaced might crack and in extreme cases cause a fuel leak, the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in a statement.
The recall is GM’s second this year in China. In May, the government announced a recall of 2,653 imported Cadillac SRX sport utility vehicles to adjust nuts on wheels that said might loosen due to torque.
By The Associated Press=
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 1.47 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 16,478.41. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 0.62 point, or 0.03 per cent, to 1,841.40 and the Nasdaq composite was down 10.59 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 4,156.59.
Benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery rose 77 cents to close at $100.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Wholesale gasoline was down 0.4 cents to $2.82 a gallon. Heating oil was rose 3 cents to $3.12 per gallon. Natural gas lost 3 cents to $4.41 per 1,000 cubic feet. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 20 cents to $112.18 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.