Heroin Now Kills More People Than Guns In America

Standard
Image: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s SEPTA Transit Police via AP

For the first time ever, deaths in America due to heroin overdose outnumber gun homicides. And before you ask, no, the number of gun homicides hasn’t been dropping. Good lord.

The data, pulled from the CDC by the Washington Post, is dispiriting reminder of our nation’s worsening opium epidemic, which was started by money-hungry drug companies and continues to claim more lives year over year. Gun homicides for 2015 were estimated at 12,979; heroin killed 12,989.

Heroin only accounts for a portion of the substances being abused by opiate addicts. And as the Post points out, one of the deadliest is fentanyl, which is estimated to be between 50 and 100 times stronger than morphine. Some heroin dealers cut their supply with fentanyl, leading their customers to accidental overdoses due to the substance’s astonishing potency.

A few threads from the r/opiates and r/drugs subreddits regarding fentanyl sightings

Drug and harm reduction forums have attempted to combat this by posting local alerts, warning others of potentially adulterated batches. Even still, CDC data shows fentanyl-related deaths shot up 75 percent between 2014 and 2015.

The news also comes just a week after the DEA closed its open comment period on kratom, a substance which many claim have helped them safely withdraw from opiate use. Kratom occupies a legal grey area, and was briefly considered for emergency drug scheduling by the DEA until public outcry caused the agency to reconsider.

Hopefully next year’s data reveals more optimistic trends in both homicides and opiate deaths. But with life expectancy rates falling in the US for the first time since 1993 it’s hard to hope for any drastic improvements.

[Washington Post]

from Gizmodo http://ift.tt/2h22tu9
via IFTTT

Eowave made a complete synth voice for Eurorack module

Standard

The brief: take up a nice little slot in Eurorack, pack a whole synth voice, but still provide enough patching to stay interesting. That’s the new Domino Eurorack module from the folks at Eowave.

So, you get a saw/square oscillator, ladder-style filter, decay envelope, and VCA. It’s vanilla stuff, but well executed. And most importantly, they’ve nicely balanced the controls and patch points, so you have something that’s accessible and versatile.

Frankly, I think it solves a lot of problems for people. Rather than piece together everything you need one module at a time, this gives you the sorts of stuff you’d have in a desktop synth – but still is simple and patchable enough that it makes sense to combine with other modules.

This isn’t the only such module out there – in fact, putting together a shopping guide to this breed of modules would make sense. But as I rather like the Eowave stuff, I think it deserves special mention.

Specs, from the source:

Controls
– Cutoff – filter frequency
– Res – filter resonance
– Switch – switches between gate>VCA to envelope>VCA
– Pitch – pitch tuning
– Mix – blend saw and square waves
– P Mod – pitch modulation attenuator
– Decay – envelope decay
– Filter Envelope – modulation amount, pre-patched from envelope to filter
– F Mod – filter cutoff modulation attenuator
In
– CV
– VCA
– PWM (square wave)
– Mix 1 in – input for external oscillator/sound source to replace saw wave
– Gate – gate in
– P Mod – pitch modulation, pre-patched to envelope
– F Mod – frequency modulation for filter cutoff, pre-patched to CV in
– Mix 2 in – input for external oscillator/sound source to replace square wave
Out
– Saw
– Square
– Env – envelope output
– Out – out from VCA

Pricing / availability – TBD, but the Eowave folks tell us they’ll let us know. 😉

http://ift.tt/2g90uSF

The post Eowave made a complete synth voice for Eurorack module appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

from Create Digital Music http://ift.tt/2gq9EeH
via IFTTT

Тhis cardboard house is designed to last a century, but only takes a day to assemble

Standard

Тhis cardboard house is designed to last a century, but only takes a day to assemble

Wikkelhouse, which means "the bending house" in Dutch, is an innovative design that uses cardboard as the main building block. 

It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and made from 100% recyclable materials and it can be assembled in only one day.

Nikolay Nikolov

from Mashable! http://ift.tt/2hmAFOO
via IFTTT

How solar energy and mobile money are changing lives in rural Africa

Standard

The NASA satellite map of the world at night shows blazing networks of light across North America and Europe. But Africa remains the dark continent. Despite the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of universal access to electricity by 2030, half of Africans are without power, most living in remote villages that are unlikely to be connected to the grid in the foreseeable future.

But now, thanks to falling prices for solar panels and increasing efficiency of LED lights and small appliances, rural Africans are obtaining electricity off the grid.

Off-grid electricity typically means a stand-alone solar home system or a microgrid (generally up to 100 kilowatts) built in the center of a community with distribution lines radiating out to houses, hospitals and stores. Microgrids are usually solar-powered, but are sometimes also fueled with diesel, micro-hydropower, wind or biomass. They often store electricity in batteries for later use.

“A real revolution is happening.”

“A real revolution is happening,” said Michael Franz, manager of the Africa-EU Renewable Energy Cooperation Programme in Brussels.

Africa, whose 54 countries encompass an area more than three times that of the United States, is beginning to embrace a hybrid future, “promoting and utilizing both on-grid and off-grid solutions to address the electricity challenges on the continent,” said Elham Ibrahim, the African Union’s commissioner for infrastructure and energy.

Developed countries such as the United States are seeing the benefits of this approach, too, as hospitals, universities and private homeowners opt for minigrids (up to 100,000 kilowatts) or solar-battery home systems to lower their electricity costs and keep the lights on during extreme storms and other natural disasters.

Electricity’s dividends

Access to clean electricity improves people’s health and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. That’s because people without electricity, including the 600 million in Africa, typically use kerosene lanterns and open fires fueled with wood, animal dung or crop waste to light their homes and cook their food. These fuels contribute to asthma, allergies, cataracts, burns and poisonings, killing an estimated 4 million people per year worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Globally, fuel-based lighting produces the equivalent of 240 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Katrina Pielli has seen the difference electricity can bring to people’s lives. Based in Johannesburg, she is the senior energy adviser for Beyond the Grid, part of the U.S.-led program Power Africa that is working to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa by attracting private investment.

In rural Kenya’s Masai Mara territory, Pielli met Teresa Mpetti, a single mother of five. Mpetti, who sells drinks from a kiosk, improved her quality of life when PowerGen Renewable Energy built a microgrid in her village. Previously, she had to close her kiosk at dark for safety. Now, thanks to the microgrid, she can light her operation and stay open later. She recently bought an off-grid refrigerator, allowing her to sell cold drinks. With the increased profits, she started a second business — a beauty salon.

“It’s this great story of the link between power and economic empowerment and quality of life,” Pielli said.

Children watch, on a solar powered television, the opening match in neighboring Johannesburg, South Africa, between South Africa and Mexico in their home in Harare, Zimbabwe on Friday, June 11, 2010.

Children watch, on a solar powered television, the opening match in neighboring Johannesburg, South Africa, between South Africa and Mexico in their home in Harare, Zimbabwe on Friday, June 11, 2010.

Image: Shepherd Tozvireva/Associated Press

Power Africa, founded by the Obama administration in 2013, has a dozen development partners and more than 120 private sector partners, a reflection of the wide range of international governments, development banks, non-governmental organizations and, increasingly, private companies seizing the challenge and opportunity of electrifying Africa.

“Before, these projects were charity, driven by NGOs. Now there’s a clear business case.”

“Before, these projects were charity, driven by NGOs,” said Aaron Leopold, global energy representative for Practical Action, a United Kingdom–based charity that works to provide sustainable energy to people. “Now there’s a clear business case. You’re seeing startups growing at 400 percent a year.”

That’s good news, because development aid isn’t going to cut it, said Pielli. Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa receive only about one-tenth the funding they need to achieve universal access to electricity, according to a 2015 World Bank report.

“The numbers are just staggering,” she said.

Eastern Africa is the epicenter of the off-grid solar movement, led by companies such as M-Kopa, Off-Grid Electric and Mobisol. In Kenya, more than 30 percent of people living off the grid have a solar product at home, according to a Bloomberg report that also estimates off-grid households worldwide will reach that benchmark by 2020.

The power of mobile money

Still, many people living in rural Africa do not have the approximate $200 needed for an entry-level solar home system, nor do they have bank accounts, so banks have been unwilling to extend them credit.

Enter mobile money.

Off-grid solar companies are taking off in East Africa in part because of earlier development projects for micro-lending that used mobile money systems for repayment. People can deposit cash with an agent in exchange for e-money, which they can use to pay bills via texting — no internet access required. Mobile money also allows people to create a credit history that can be used to build small businesses.

M-Kopa, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, sells an 8-watt system that comes with a solar panel, a control box with a lithium ion battery, two LED lights, a phone charger, a flashlight and a radio. To buy it people must put $35 down and then pay approximately 50 cents a day for a year. Larger systems have fans or small televisions as well, and in the future, the company plans to offer refrigerators.

Companies had traditionally avoided serving electricity and water to poor rural people because they thought that they could not pay. While the $35 deposit is still a barrier for some people, the daily payments are typically within reach.

“The reality is that they already pay a lot for energy,” said Leopold, referring to money spent on kerosene. “On average, it’s like $20 per kilowatt-hour. In the U.S., we pay four to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.”

President Barack Obama looks at a mobile payment platform and solar exhibit during the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi.

President Barack Obama looks at a mobile payment platform and solar exhibit during the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi.

Image: Evan Vucci / Associated Press

Customers can prepay for multiple days if they come into money. The control box tracks payments, and customers can see how many days of credit they have at any given time. If they go into default, cellular technology allows M-Kopa to switch off the power remotely until they pay. That capability makes the repayment rate high, north of 90 percent, said Pauline Githugu, director of legal and external affairs for M-Kopa in Nairobi.

“Once you get used to having that light, for most people, they find it difficult to go back to kerosene,” she said.

Githugu had been working for a local microfinance bank in her native Kenya when M-Kopa recruited her. She resisted until she realized that M-Kopa had 15 times as many customers as the bank.

“This solution seems to be something people really want,” she said.

So far M-Kopa has powered 400,000 homes in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and employs more than 1,000 people.

Not just a rural solution

Despite the booming off-grid market, many African governments still think of solar as prohibitively expensive or unreliable, said Leopold. But even when an African country decides to build a power plant to serve people close to cities, it still takes an average of nine years for households to get electricity, according to a 2014 World Bank report.

“By focusing primarily on the grid, you’re making a choice for people that you have to wait,” he said. “You have to wait nine years to get an electrified health clinic. You have to wait nine years for your kids to use a computer at school. You have to wait nine years for whatever job you’re doing manually right now to get an electrified variant up and running.”

Ugandans use a mobile money point in Kampala, Uganda, on Sept. 29, 2016. Mobile money has become a way of life for millions of Africans who use their phones to pay utility bills, settle loans and even bail out friends in distress.

Ugandans use a mobile money point in Kampala, Uganda, on Sept. 29, 2016. Mobile money has become a way of life for millions of Africans who use their phones to pay utility bills, settle loans and even bail out friends in distress.

Image: Stephen Wandera / Associated Press

While grid-tied electricity can meet industrial demands, rural villagers who have no power don’t need that right now, said Leopold. “Does a small village in the Kenyan countryside need to run an arc welder, a clothes dryer, and a sawmill simultaneously? No, they don’t. What they need is something to improve their lives.”

Even for industry, microgrids can often do the trick, supplying heating and cooling and driving small machinery such as grain mills and pumps for irrigation.

Off-grid can be the most affordable solution for people living near cities, too. As African cities boom, new buildings, including slums, are springing up on the urban periphery. People in these areas are frequently opting for community minigrids or solar home systems.

“To transform a person’s well-being, a child’s future … I find just the possibility of that extremely fulfilling.”

“If you do not have an air conditioner, a dishwasher or electric cooking, you don’t need grid-connected electricity,” said Franz, who lived in Nairobi for several years. “You can get along with 130- or 200-watt peak on your roof. You can have a small fridge, your mobile charging, light in every room and a TV running off that.”

Grid electricity in many African countries remains unreliable. People with means have traditionally relied on diesel generators as backup. Increasingly, these folks are opting for solar systems, Pielli said.

In many places in Africa, off-grid solar is changing lives on a daily basis. It means being able to blow out kerosene lamps that have long harmed children’s lungs and eyes as they try to study, said Githugu.

“To transform a person’s well-being, a child’s future … I find just the possibility of that extremely fulfilling.”

This article originally published at TakePart
here

from Mashable! http://ift.tt/2hr8U88
via IFTTT

Which Altcoins Are Implementing SegWit?

Standard

SegregatedWitness (SegWit) — the proposed upgrade to the Bitcoin protocol developed by the Bitcoin Core developers — is still far from activation. Requiring 95 percent of hash power to signal support for the solution, miner-adoption has seemingly stagnated at around 25 percent for now.

But, of course, SegWit’s open source code is out there. As such, altcoins based on Bitcoin’s codebase can take the code and implement the solution. Indeed, at least two altcoins are adopting SegWit: Litecoin and Viacoin.

And it looks as if SegWit may activate on one of these altcoins before it’s live on the Bitcoin network.

Soft Fork

While most agree that SegWit is generally a beneficial change to the Bitcoin protocol, some dispute that rolling out the upgrade as a soft fork is the best way forward. While a soft fork offers backwards compatibility and decreases the chance of a coin split, a hard fork can be slightly “cleaner” from a code perspective.

Charlie Lee is the inventor of Litecoin, one of the oldest altcoins and still the most valuable Bitcoin fork. Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Lee said he prefers SegWit as a soft fork, both for Bitcoin and Litecoin.

“I think Bitcoin Core is making the right trade-off to do SegWit as a soft fork,” Lee said. “It’s a good balance between the hard fork risk and adding code complexity and code debt. For Litecoin, a hard fork is less risky because the community is smaller. So, if coming from a blank slate, it makes sense to do SegWit as a hard fork. But, it would cause Litecoin code to be less maintainable if it diverges from Bitcoin too much.”

Currently placed at 121 on the CoinMarketCap digital currency index, Viacoin is a relatively small digital currency, but one with a notable history: Bitcoin Core developers BtcDrak and Peter Todd were previously involved with the project. Viacoin is now led by Romano, a Dutch programmer who prefers his surname to remain unknown.

Speaking to Bitcoin Magazine, Romano said SegWit’s complexity is being exaggerated, and thinks the soft fork approach should work fine.

“SegWit itself is very simple,” Romano said. “A huge amount of the patchset are actually tests. There are other ancillary changes — for example to the peer-to-peer layer for compact block relay and peering — but SegWit is concise and easy to understand. It will also provide a much cleaner method of upgrading the scripting language after activation.”

Block Size Increase

As perhaps the best known benefit, SegWit is set to offer an effective doubling of the block size limit — in Bitcoin’s case from one to about two megabytes (per ten minutes). Any altcoin that implements SegWit would gain a similar benefit; whatever block size limit it now has will be roughly doubled.

However, this is probably also the least useful feature for most altcoins. All altcoins experience a much lower transaction volume than Bitcoin currently does; there is usually very little need for a block size limit increase at all.

Regardless, Romano pointed out that SegWit offers morebenefits than just increased throughput.

“SegWit’s main purpose isn’t a capacity increase,” he said. “It’s fixing malleability, and making scripting more easy to upgrade, as well. And it also fixes some long-standing issues, like quadratic hashing. A bigger block size limit is a nice extra, but I think SegWit has merit all by itself. Once malleability is fixed, much more exciting things will be possible, like atomic swaps, bi-directional payment channels, and lightning networks.”

Lee, who is also Director of Engineering at Coinbase, agreed that SegWit will benefit Litecoin even if the effective block size limit increase proves irrelevant. Like Romano, Lee also pointed out that SegWit-enabled lightning networks could increase his coin’s interoperability with Bitcoin.

“SegWit is mostly not a scalability feature. Scalability is a side benefit. Lightning networks require a malleability fix, and lightning networks will allow atomic cross-chain transactions. This would allow you to send litecoin on one end and receive bitcoin on the other end,” Lee explained.

Activation

Litecoin as well as Viacoin may see SegWit live on their networks even before Bitcoin. Both have a SegWit release scheduled in a couple of weeks from now, possibly before the end of the year. And while both Lee and Romano agree that implementing SegWit is not that difficult, code review can take some time.

Furthermore, not unlike Bitcoin, the real challenge may be to get the community — and most importantly the miners — to adopt the change. While activation details differ slightly from coin to coin, SegWit will in each case ultimately require 95 percent hash power support.

For Viacoin, which previously activated the CheckLockTimeVerify soft fork before Bitcoin did, Romano is hopeful the community may be quick to adopt this upgrade as well.

“Viacoin has a smaller mining community, which could prove to be a benefit,” he said. “I think everyone is excited to see SegWit activated on Viacoin. But, of course, it is up to the ecosystem to adopt it.”

That said, one of the biggest mining pools on the Viacoin network is F2Pool. Also active on the Bitcoin network, the Chinese pool currently isn’t signaling support for SegWit. When recently asked by Bitcoin Magazine, F2Pool operator Wang Chun indicated it may take until spring before he signals support for SegWit on Bitcoin.

For Litecoin, moreover, several of the major pools required for the upgrade’s success are the same pools active on the Bitcoin network. This once again includes F2Pool, and also BW Pool and AntPool — none of which are currently signaling support for SegWit on Bitcoin.

But according to Lee, who is currently discussing SegWit support with the miners, there is a chance they will signal support for the upgrade on Litecoin. And — as the “silver to bitcoin’s gold” — succesful SegWit activation on Litecoin may even help convince Bitcoin miners to activate it on Bitcoin as well, Lee hopes.

“One of the goals of Litecoin is to help experiment with things that are too hard to experiment with on Bitcoin,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, Bitcoin is deadlocked with SegWit versus Bitcoin Unlimited. I want to see Litecoin help break that deadlock in one way or another. That means we have to take a risk: if SegWit activates on Litecoin but doesn’t on Bitcoin after a year, our codebase could be very different. I’m willing to take this risk to help move things forward: for Litecoin, Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general.”

The post Which Altcoins Are Implementing SegWit? appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.

from Bitcoin Magazine http://ift.tt/2gtz6Ni
via IFTTT

Scientists design the next-gen CRISPR for gene editing

Standard

CRISPR is already effective enough to be used in experimental therapies for leukemia, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease and other conditions. But a team of scientists from Western University have created an even more effective version of CRISPR by adding an engineered enzyme called TevCas9. The current version of CRISPR uses an enzyme known as Cas9 to cut DNA segments, such as the specific parts that cause genetic disorders. Western’s scientists created TevCas9 by combining Cas9 with another enzyme called I-Tevl.

According to the team, the next-gen CRISPR is more precise and more efficient. Plus, it has the potential to prevent genes from repairing themselves.

Lead scientist David Edgell explains:

"The problem with CRISPR is that it will cut DNA, but then DNA-repair will take that cut and stick it back together. That means it is regenerating the site that the CRISPR is trying to target, creating a futile cycle. The novelty of our addition, is that it stops that regeneration from happening."

See, the upgraded CRISPR cuts genes in two places instead of just one to make it tougher for self-repair to kick in. The team still has to confirm that through further testing, but as the team says, that "is the hope and the expectation." If you want to read the study’s technical details, check out the team’s paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: PNAS, Western University

from Engadget http://ift.tt/2gUMXxe
via IFTTT

First feathered dinosaur tail found encased in amber

Standard

Scientists have found dinosaur-era feathers and evidence of them in fossil impressions before. But this is the first time they’ve discovered a full-feathered tail section preserved in amber, ripe for forensic analysis and Spielbergian dreams.

Paleontologist Lida Xing of the China University of Geosciences led the research, as detailed in a report that came out today in the journal Current Biology. The sample itself, known as DIP-V-15103 and unofficially as "Eva" after the wife of the report’s co-author, came from a mine in Kachin, a state in northern Myanmar. Based on the structure of the tail, it likely came from a Cretaceous-era young coelurasaur, a subgroup of therapods that includes everything from tyrannosauruses to birds, points out National Geographic.

While you should check your excitement for the possibilities of dino DNA, the preserved feathers gave the scientists forensic insight into their role. The encased plumage seems to be ornamental rather than functional: Previous research by the same team found that birds from this sample’s era had similar feathers to those of birds today. In short, if the rest of the tail looked like Eva, this dino likely wouldn’t have been able to fly.

Xing and his team didn’t dig the sample up, however — they collected it from an amber market in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin. Burmese amber is often used as jewelry, and Eva had already been shaped by the time it was collected with other samples in 2015.

Via: CNN

Source: National Geographic

from Engadget http://ift.tt/2gh59jj
via IFTTT

Fintech Revolut raises fees as it waits for licence

Standard


Nikolay Storonsky   CEO & Founder of Revolut

Nikolay Storonsky, CEO
& Founder of Revolut.

Revolut

LONDON — International money exchange startup Revolut has become
to latest fintech to increase the fees it charges to customers.

Revolut announced in a
blog post on its website late last week
that it is lowering
the cap for free ATM withdrawals on its cards from £500 a month
to £200 a month. Customers will be charged 2% for any withdrawals
above that monthly limit.

The startup, founded by a former Credit Suisse trader, is also
introducing a £5 charge for its cards and now charges £6 to
replace lost or stolen cards.

London-based Revolut offers a prepaid foreign exchange card
linked to an app. Users load money onto the card using the app
and then can spend it around the world, getting the best rate
available, directly from MasterCard.

A spokesperson for the company told Business Insider over email:
“Some of the services we provide are particularly costly for us –
namely ATM withdrawals. Simply to cover our costs, we have
introduced a £200 free monthly limit, with a fair and competitive
2% fee thereafter.”

N26, a German app-only bank,
shut around 160,000 customer accounts earlier this year, blaming
high ATM withdrawal costs.

The Revolut spokesperson said: “Likewise, the £5 fee for a
RevolutCard is merely to cover the cost to produce, package and
post the card. Customers will make their money back the
first-time they use their card abroad.

“We’re confident that Revolut provides the ultimate value for our
customers. Most UK banks and competitors within this space charge
anything between 3 – 6% for every ATM withdrawal, alongside
marking up the FX rate by up to 6%.”

While Revolut still offers a better deal than many rivals — with
the best rate of currency interchange over its app — the
increased fees highlight
the growing issue of revenue generation and profitability in the
consumer fintech space
. So-called “neobanks” — app-only banks
or banking services — face particular scrutiny as many give away
costly services such as ATM withdrawals and currency interchange
as a means to acquire customers.

Revolut’s fee changes come weeks after it
radically scaled back its operations and stopped accepting new
customers.
Revolut used to operate globally but has reduced
its scope to just Europe after a disagreement with partner
Paysafe, a company that issues cards and processes payments on
behalf of Revolut. The freeze on sign-ups is also due to the
disagreement, according to an earlier report by Business
Insider.

CEO Nikolay Storonsky told BI at the time that Revolut was
applying directly to MasterCard for a license to issue its own
cards. Storonsky said in late November that he hoped to get a
licence within the week.

A spokesperson for Revolut told BI in an email on Thursday:
“Regarding the MasterCard licensing application, we’re currently
reaching a conclusion and things should be finalised very soon.”

Revolut, founded just a year and a half ago, has proved hugely
popular with consumers,
with more than 330,000 people signing up and a billion dollars
spent on its cards.

from SAI http://ift.tt/2gIc1az
via IFTTT

If you care about good movies, you should be thrilled right now

Standard

It’s Friday night and you’re trying to decide what to do. You could go see the epic Arrival in theaters, or you could check out a few episodes of Stranger Things on Netflix. As we all know, one requires a whole lot more effort than the other. (Read: you need to put on pants.) 

Movie ticket prices are on a seemingly never-ending rise, with the national average reaching a record high in the second quarter of 2016. Factor in additional costs like snacks, transportation, and hiring a babysitter alongside common annoyances like theater talkers, uncomfortable seating, and cell-phone users, and is it any surprise more and more consumers are opting out with quality entertainment available in other ways? 

*extremely infomercial voice* There must be a better way!

On December 7, news broke that Apple is pressing Hollywood studios for earlier access to their movies. According to Bloomberg Technology, if Apple gets its way, new releases might soon be streaming on iTunes in as little as two weeks after theatrical release. This would allow studios to finally compete with Netflix and other streaming programs that have long been the choice for those who, for one reason or another, are committed to staying on their couch. 

Even more exciting for lazy but loyal movie fans? Streaming services could potentially even up the playing field for famously dying breeds like the adult drama, which have struggled to find studio financing amidst diminishing box office returns. If studios can make early streaming an additional path to revenue for these adult dramas and other, lately-less-bankable genres outside of the theater, it could lead to these same studios taking risks on big budget films that aren’t, say, Transformers 7: Bumblebee Begins. 

As Tom Hanks recently said during a Sully Q&A at the Telluride Film Festival, we have arrived at a crucial moment for non-sequel big budget movies like the upcoming La La Land. Hanks claims that the film will “be a test of the broader national audience, because it has none of the things that major studios want,” like character recognition or the word “Marvel’s” preceding its title.

“If the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as [La La] then we are all doomed,” Hanks continued. 

Thanks largely to positive buzz from the Toronto International Film Festival (where it won the People’s Choice Award) as well as a lull in major studio fare post-Moana and Fantastic Beasts and pre-Rogue One, La La Land is tracking extremely well pre-release (at least in New York and Los Angeles). But even if La La Land becomes the next Frozen, Force Awakens already proved that one film’s colossal success is hardly enough to reverse national disillusionment with theater-going.

Sure, luxury chains like AMC’s Dine-In Theaters and Alamo Drafthouse do offer a more comfortable outlet for serious moviegoers to see critically acclaimed films like La La, but the majority of non city-dwelling U.S. filmgoers are still stuck with the same old soda-stained mall theaters that are no longer worth the cost of admission. Add the massive expansion of streaming options and the ever-increasing picture quality of laptops, phones, and televisions, and it’s easy to understand why filmgoers have gotten choosy in terms of which films are worth the effort of a trip to the theater. 

Event movies like The Force Awakens beg to be seen on the big screen, of course, but won’t Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling’s song and dance look just the same from home, and at a much cheaper price?

"Midnight Special"

"Midnight Special"

Right now, one of the biggest incentives to go to the theaters is to see the film first, while the conversation and buzz are still happening, and not months later. If Apple can make that lead time significantly shorter, why wouldn’t many individuals prefer inviting friends over and watching a hit in the comfort of their homes? To be fair, a big question mark is cost. When this idea has been floated before, a price point of $50 to view at home has been thrown around. 

But think of the good an Apple-made service could have done for, say, Midnight Special, a Warner Bros. flop that enjoyed massive critical acclaim but made only a little over $6 million on its $18 million dollar budget. Midnight Special’s surprise failure was all thanks to the massive misfortune of its release date being pushed to the same month of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, an event movie Warner Bros. had far more interest promoting. If given the option, one would assume the film’s spectacular critical buzz would have driven the studio to shell out a few extra bucks for, say, front page placement on iTunes.

While Apple’s role in these studios’ push for increased revenue is still being kept under wraps, according to Bloomberg’s sources, movie-lovers won’t have to wait too long to see how early, premium-priced streaming will affect earnings for films like La La and Midnight — we’ll likely see someone debut a home entertainment service within the next 18 months. Then the only question will be whether or not home viewers really want to watch high-brow adult films alongside Jedis, Transformers, Minions, and chiseled men named Chris as much as they say they do.

BONUS: ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ exclusive featurette

from Mashable! http://ift.tt/2giUPHN
via IFTTT