Do People Still Want to Go to Movie Theaters? And This Week’s Other Deep Dives

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It’s Sunday so we’re offering up some stories we think you may want to spend some time lingering over.

DO PEOPLE STILL WANT TO GO TO THE MOVIES?

An ambitious new theater chain is opening in Los Angeles, and the question is: Why? “Tucked into an upper corner of the open-air plaza of the Bloc in downtown Los Angeles, the Alamo Drafthouse chain of movie theaters is opening its first location in Southern California this week. From this unlikely perch, the venue has its sights set on nothing less than becoming a new and vital home for film-goers in Los Angeles and a focal point for a fervent community of movie fans. …

“The Alamo Drafthouse LA houses 12 theaters ranging from 40 to 63 seats for a total of 569 seats and an average ticket price around $17-$18. The venue’s lobby and lounge area also includes Video Vortex, a video store offering free rentals and an inventory of some 40,000 titles drawn from a closed Austin store. An initiative for table-top gaming has been announced, with games available to play for free along with tournaments and events.

“The chain was among the pioneers of in-seat service, with an extensive menu of food and beverages available to be ordered and served in the theater. Alamo Drafthouse also prides itself on a strict policy of no texting or talking during a movie, once notoriously transforming the angry voicemail from an ejected patron into an ad to warn other customers to stay quiet and put down their devices. But the question remains. At a moment where many feel that the theatrical business is in peril and that streaming services are becoming the dominant force in entertainment, why would a theater want to launch into Los Angeles in such a big way?”

HOW DO YOU BUILD A FOLLOWING ON TWITTER?

Gary Vaynerchuk says you should think of Twitter not as a stage but as a cocktail party: “In 2007 to 2011, nobody on Earth knew who the hell I was, and I worked in a wine retail store in New Jersey, selling wine. I was a wine retailer and I went into Twitter and I basically replied to every single person—six, seven, eight hours a day—that talked about wine.”

HOW BIG A DEAL WAS PRIME DAY?

Amazon makes a lot of claims about Prime Day but those claims are impossible to assess: “Amazon has a long and proud record of semi-announcing the results of major promotional events like this, and its latest press release upholds the tradition. As per usual, the announcement uses a lot of superlatives without ever actually saying anything substantive about total sales for the event, or how they compared with previous Prime Days on a computational level. And the comparisons it does provide are hampered by the fact that last year Amazon defined a Prime Day as 36 hours; this year it was 48 hours.”

ARE VC FIRMS INVESTING MORE MONEY IN FEWER COMPANIES?

It’s called ‘blitzscaling,’ and it’s choking innovation: “Over the past five years, entry-round investments have declined by more than 40 percent, while average deal sizes have risen. The primary reason is that early-stage VC funds generally have found it more lucrative to place fewer, bigger bets, rather than spreading investments more thinly. This practice delivers a big win when the bets pay off—particularly for seed VCs with higher ownership stakes. But now, more than ever, entrepreneurs find themselves folding for lack of seed funding.”

WHY DID SILICON VALLEY BECOME SILICON VALLEY?

A new book, “Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America,” says that two key factors were California’s prohibition of non-compete clauses and the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965: Prohibiting non-competes “made it easy for employees to job-hop and share news of the latest innovations without fear of reprisal or recrimination. The turnover was staggering at Valley startups compared with established corporations such as IBM on the other side of the country.” The new immigration law “led to an influx of newcomers, many of them skilled in the technical fields that are Silicon Valley’s bread and butter. Between 1995 and 2005, more than half the founders of companies in the Valley were born outside the United States.”

IS IT GETTING EVEN HARDER TO OPEN A RESTAURANT?

We’ve just experienced the greatest period of restaurant growth in history, and now it’s ending: “‘The gestation period to develop new ideas in Portland in the middle of the last decade was years,’ [Kevin] Alexander says. ‘Now if you don’t have your act together in three months, someone is going to take your idea and own it. It doesn’t matter where they live, if they have the resources and skill to execute better than you can, anyone can plagiarize you.’ When Instagram and Yelp are crowded with 300 pictures of your latest dish or cutting-edge bar decor, imitation isn’t just a form of flattery; it’s intellectual theft that is entirely legal and impossible to prevent.”

IS SMALL MANUFACTURING MAKING A COMEBACK?

Even without the tariffs, manufacturing in China can be a  headache for small businesses: “Danica Lause manufactured knitted hats in China for four years and struggled the whole time. ‘… Small businesses without the resources and bargaining power that larger companies have can struggle as they deal with issues like poor quality, missed production deadlines and legal disputes. Most companies soldier on and find solutions, but some end up moving their manufacturing to the US. In 2016, Lause began moving the work to a facility in Germantown, Wisconsin. She found engineers who figured out how to get the hats knit on machines, and she discovered it’s not as expensive as she thought to manufacture in the US.”

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com.

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