Why ‘The Mortal Engines’ Was A Painfully Predictable Box Office Disaster


Universal and MRC’s The Mortal Engines has currently earned just $7.5 million in North America and $42m worldwide. Even if it legs out like Night at the Museum (not likely), it would still barely top $60m domestic. And with $34m overseas after opening in much of the world, the more likely endgame for the $100m-budgeted fantasy flick is under-$30m domestic well-under $150m worldwide. So, yes, barring an overseas miracle, The Mortal Engines is doomed to join the likes of Jupiter Ascending ($183m on a $175m budget), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ($225m on a $175m budget) and Tomorrowland ($209m on a $190m budget). It is a tragedy, to be sure, but it is an entirely inevitable one.

As 2018 comes to a close, there is a certain pattern in terms of the very biggest of the big box office bombs. It’s no secret that merely offering a big-budget fantasy adventure is no longer enough to qualify your movie as an event film. And it’s no secret that the YA fantasy craze that spawned Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games is both essentially dead and was itself responsible for a handful of failed attempts for every one successful offering. For every Twilight, we had a few along the likes of The Host, The Darkest Minds, The Giver and The Mortal Instruments. The YA fantasy sub-genre was limping along for the last five years, with only Divergent (for the first two movies, at least) and The Maze Runner keeping the hope alive.

Yes, there have still been hit movies that have YA source material, like The House with a Clock in Its Walls ($130 million worldwide on a $42m budget), but the specific genre tropes defined by Hunger Games and Harry Potter are no longer the stuff of box office magic. If anything, Divergent was the exception to the rule in that it spawned two hit movies (before cratering on the third) despite A) being derivative of its predecessors and B) not selling itself on a popular lead character. If Mortal Engines did anything wrong (beyond existed as stands in the 2018 theatrical environment), it was in not successfully selling its core leading character (Hera Hilmar’s Hester Shaw) as an icon comparable to Harry Potter, Bella Swann or Katniss Everdeen (who was preemptively sold as a defining “strong female character” prior to Hunger Games).

‘The Mummy’Universal

The core pitch of The Mortal Engines, that it offered a never-before-seen fantasy adventure world sans iconic characters or conventional star power, was the same pitch that doomed Valerian or A Wrinkle in Time. Audiences did not so much turn their back on new-to-cinema concepts as they did turn their backs on the allure of movie stars. Once upon a time, folks would show up for The Fifth Element because it was a Bruce Willis sci-fi actioner. But in 2018, moviegoers no longer show up for Valerian merely because it’s from the same director. Heck, they won’t even show up for The Mummy (relatively speaking…) despite featuring Tom Cruise. They’ll show up for Mission: Impossible partially because he’s playing Ethan Hunt. In 2018, the character is the movie star.


Behind-The-Scenes Of How Rahul Gandhi Chose Chief Ministers

Rahul Gandhi has finally ticked some very important boxes in his tenure as Congress President and can now happily take his new year break.

First, he put the Congress back in the business of winning elections; then, he displayed the delicate art of the deal in brokering peace between rival leaders in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh while installing his own choices as Chief Minister in both states.

Kamal Nath, 72, heads Madhya Pradesh now. Ashok Gehlot, 67, takes charge of Rajasthan with 41-year-old Sachin Pilot as his deputy. Gandhi also proved his Love Guru credentials (which debuted with that jhappi of PM Modi) by managing pretty pictures of the competing contenders in the midst of tough negotiations along with quotes from Tolstoy. So maharajah-sized egos were managed with flair; experience balanced with dynamism and youth.

The claims for Chief Minister went late into last night. A senior leader who was privy to the delicate negotiations says that Gandhi, like his grand mother and father, is a late bloomer but now finally shows sign of having a grip on managing his party. Also, he is no longer being second-guessed by his mother, Sonia Gandhi, the longest-serving president in Congress history, and her team of veterans.


In Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath has been chosen as the Chief Minister.

This is perhaps the first time that Sonia Gandhi has provided support for a decision made entirely by Rahul Gandhi, who, to his credit, has managed to ensure that the Old Guard and Young Guns accept complementary roles unlike the sad old-age home of the BJP, the Margdarshak Mandal, where Shah and Modi have banished older leaders.

Gandhi appears to have taken years to make his own assessment of leaders and before deciding on where they fit into the party’s scheme of things. So when funds became a problem for the party he asked Ahmed Patel in a joint meeting with his mother to take over the job of Treasurer. Patel, his mother’s closest political aide, had been subjected to years of spin by rivals about how Gandhi disliked him and would have no job for him.

Kamal Nath had dragged a reluctant Digvijaya Singh and Scindia to a joint meeting with Gandhi before the polls where they said, “We don’t care who you pick but pick one of us – or it will be curtains for the Congress in MP. We want to fight the BJP, not each other”. I had written about this meeting in an earlier column here.

Gandhi then made Kamal Nath walk the talk, assigning him as President of the Congress in the state to raise funds and lead campaigning while ensuring that Scindia and Singh did not indulge in their longstanding rivalry. Kamal Nath revitalised a moribund party organisation barely six months before the elections with Singh playing his backroom boy and trouble-shooter. Singh, because of his two terms as Chief Minister, knew every key person in the organisation and helped smooth the way. Kamal Nath ensured that Scindia and Singh did not have to spend any time together.


Ashok Gehlot will become Rajasthan Chief Minister and Sachin Pilot will be his deputy.

Both Scindia and Kamal Nath told me separately that if any one tried to create trouble between them, they would call each other to pre-empt any misunderstanding.

Scindia did want his turn post the results but was told gently by Gandhi that he could wait. Gandhi was clear that Kamal Nath’s enormous administrative experience is required to deliver on the tall poll promises and that his equation with industry will draw some show-piece job-creating projects to MP.

Gandhi also told Scindia that his “Shakti app” feedback showed overwhelming support for Kamal Nath and that he can’t do without Scindia in Delhi.



PESO increases pilot projects for home delivery of diesel

Image result for PESO increases pilot projects for home delivery of dieselThe Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) has increased pilot projects for home delivery of diesel.

In April 2017, oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said that the government is looking at options to deliver diesel at doorstep. More than a year later, three pilot projects are being run by the oil marketing companies (OMCs) such as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) in cities like Pune, Rewadi and Navi Mumbai.

CNBC-TV18 learns that the PESO has doubled the license for doorstep delivery of diesel from 24 to 50. The government is not happy with the OMCs as they are yet to submit a proposal on a full rollout of these schemes.

The government is eager to expedite the full rollout of diesel home delivery, which will initially target high consuming diesel dependence like shopping malls, genset owners and transportation business.


Common errors made on home renovation projects

Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. - 123RF
Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. – 123RF

Home improvement projects can turn a house into a home. Homeowners plan scores of renovations to transform living spaces into rooms that reflect their personal tastes and comforts.

But homeowners going it alone may find things do not always go as planned. In fact, a Harris Interactive study found that 85 per cent of homeowners say remodelling is a more stressful undertaking than buying a home.

But homeowners about to embark on home improvement projects can make the process go more smoothly by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Failing to understand the scope of the project

Some homeowners don’t realize just how big a commitment they have made until they get their hands dirty. But understanding the scope of the project, including how much demolition and reconstruction is involved, and how much time a project will take can help homeowners avoid some of the stress that comes with renovation projects.

For example, a bathroom renovation may require the removal of drywall, reinforcement of flooring to accommodate a new bathtub or shower enclosure and the installation of new plumbing and wiring behind walls. So such a renovation is far more detailed than simply replacing faucets.

Not establishing a budget

Homeowners must develop a project budget to ensure their projects do not drain their finances. If your budget is so inflexible that you can’t afford the materials you prefer, you may want to postpone the project and save more money so you can eventually afford to do it right.

Without a budget in place, it is easy to overspend, and that can put you in financial peril down the line. Worrying about coming up with money to pay for materials and labour also can induce stress. Avoid the anxiety by setting a firm budget.

Making trendy or personal improvements

Homeowners who plan to stay in their homes for the long run have more free rein when it comes to renovating their homes. Such homeowners can create a billiards room or paint a room hot pink if they so prefer.

However, if the goal is to make improvements in order to sell a property, overly personal touches may make a property less appealing to prospective buyers. Trends come and go, and improvements can be expensive.

If your ultimate goal is to sell your home, opt for renovations that will look beautiful through the ages and avoid bold choices that may only appeal to a select few buyers.

Forgetting to properly vet all workers

It is important to vet your contractor, but don’t forget to vet potential subcontractors as well. Failing to do so can prove a costly mistake. Contractors often look to subcontractors to perform certain parts of a job, and it is the responsibility of homeowners to vet these workers.

Expecting everything to go as planned

Optimism is great, but you also should be a realist. Knowing what potentially could go wrong puts you in a better position to handle any problems should they arise. The project might go off without a hitch, but plan for a few hiccups along the way.

Overestimating DIY abilities

Overzealous homeowners may see a renovation project in a magazine or on television and immediately think they can do the work themselves. Unless you have the tools and the skills necessary to do the work, tackling too much can be problematic. In the long run, leaving the work to a professional may save you money.

Home improvements can be stressful, but homeowners can lessen that stress by avoiding common renovation mistakes.


US homebuilding rose in October on a rebound in multifamily housing projects.

U.S. homebuilding rose in October amid a rebound in multifamily housing projects, but construction of single-family homes fell for a second straight month, suggesting the housing market remained mired in weakness as mortgage rates march higher.

Other details of the report published by the Commerce Department on Tuesday were also soft. Building permits declined last month and homebuilding completions were the fewest in a year. Housing starts increased 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.228 million units last month.

Data for September was revised to show starts dropping to a rate of 1.210 million units instead of the previously reported pace of 1.201 million units.

Building permits slipped 0.6 percent to a rate of 1.263 million units in October. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts rising to a pace of 1.225 million units last month.

The housing market is being hobbled by rising borrowing costs as well as land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventories and higher house prices. This is making home buying unaffordable for many workers as wage growth has lagged.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering at a seven-year high of 4.94 percent, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. Wages rose 3.1 percent in October from a year ago, trailing house price inflation of about 5.5 percent.

Residential investment contracted in the first nine months of the year and housing is likely to remain a drag on economic growth in the fourth quarter. Economists expect housing activity to remain weak through the first half of 2019.

U.S. financial markets were little moved by Tuesday’s housing starts data.

Single-family homebuilding stalls

Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 1.8 percent to a rate of 865,000 units in October after declining in September.

Single-family homebuilding has lost momentum since hitting a pace of 948,000 units last November, which was the strongest in more than 10 years.

A survey on Monday showed confidence among single-family homebuilders dropped to a more than two-year low in November, with builders reporting that “customers are taking a pause due to concerns over rising interest rates and home prices.”

Single-family starts in the South, which accounts for the bulk of homebuilding, fell 4.0 percent last month. Single-family homebuilding jumped 14.8 percent in the Northeast and fell 2.0 percent in the West. Groundbreaking activity on single-family homes dropped 1.6 percent in the Midwest.

Permits to build single-family homes fell 0.6 percent in October to a pace of 849,000 units. These permits remain below the level of single-family starts, suggesting limited scope for a strong pickup in homebuilding.

Starts for the volatile multifamily housing segment surged 10.3 percent to a rate of 363,000 units in October. Permits for the construction of multifamily homes fell 0.5 percent to a pace of 414,000 units.

Tuesday’s data also suggested that housing supply is likely to remain tight in the near term. Homebuilding completions in October fell 3.3 percent to a rate of 1.111 million units, the lowest level since September 2017.

Realtors estimate that housing starts and completion rates need to be in a range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month to plug the inventory gap.


UP RERA planning to rate real estate developers, projects

To protect the interests of home buyers, the Uttar Pradesh RERA is planning to rate both real estate projects and developers, Chairman Rajive Kumar said at a workshop held in Delhi on Thursday.

“RERA is meant for protecting the interests of home buyers. We would be launching a system of grading the builders and projects shortly,” he said.

Kumar said that the purpose of grading both buyers and projects is that over a period, it creates a track record for builders and signals to the public that the promoter and the project have a higher rating.

“A substantial part of the grading will relate to feedback of the people who have been associated with the project. The first round will be held around February and the first rating will be out before we complete a year in the month of September next year,” he said.

An independent rating agency will conduct the exercise.

Kumar also said that 98 projects in Uttar Pradesh have been audited so far and serious issues have been found in 20-25 of them. Another 25 have been declared as fine and the remaining have been graded as redeemable. The auditing agency has has made some recommendations for the redeemable.

“We are asking both the authorities to follow up those recommendations so that projects can move ahead. Finance is a major challenge,” he said.


Supreme Court to take up Sabarimala review pleas on January 22

Sabarimala temple

In what is being claimed as a victory by few groups, the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to reconsider its September 28 verdict allowing entry of women of all ages to Kerala’s Sabarimala temple. The court said it will hear the review petitions in the case on January 22 and there will be no stay of its judgment till such time.

Forty-nine entities, including organisations and individuals, have questioned the verdict on temple entry on the grounds that rationality can’t be a yardstick to assess whether a religious practice or belief is integral to the faith of a community or group.

The petitions said the SC ruling had other flaws. The petitioners had appealed for an open court hearing saying that will give their lawyers a chance to put forth their arguments before the judges and even respond to queries. Review petitions, as a norm, do not get listed in open courts and are generally dealt with in chambers by the judges who decided the specific matter.

The Sabarimala verdict by delivered through a 4:1 majority by a Constitutional bench that included former CJI Dipak Misra, Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone dissenting judge, found no fault with the practice of the barring entry of women of menstrual age into the temple.

On Tuesday, CJI Ranjan Gogoi replaced his predecessor on the bench while retaining the other four judges who decided the case. “All review petitions along with all pending applications will be heard in open court on January 22, 2019 before the appropriate bench. We make it clear that there is no stay of the judgment and order of this court dated September 28, 2018.”

On the fresh petitions challenging the verdict, the SC asked the petitioners to wait till judges decide on the review petitions. “If review petitions are dismissed, your petitions will be taken up. If they are allowed, your petitions will get tagged along,” said CJI Gogoi.

All-party meeting called

Hours after the development in the Supreme Court, the Kerala government called for an all-party meeting on November 15 to discuss the issue.

The two-month long annual ‘Mandala Makkaravillakku’ season will start on November 17 and the meeting will also take stock of the arrangements for devotees.

The temple had witnessed a string of protests from devotees when it opened for monthly pujas for five days in October and two days early this month.

Over 3,700 persons have been arrested so far and 546 cases registered against various people for violence during protests across the state after the top court permitted women of all ages to pray at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

  • For centuries, women of menstruating age are barred from entry to shrine
  • SC on Sept 28 allows all women to enter temple, protests start
  • Opposers of ruling say rationality can’t be applied to assess whether a religious practice is integral to faith of group

I think it is a very good decision. I think Kerala is united on this issue and therefore, I am happy that the Supreme Court has decided to review the entire issue. In democracy, people are paramount.K J Alphons, Union Minister

Review petitions will be heard on 22 January, after the ‘Makaravilakku’ season ends. The state government will discuss with legal experts and move forwardPinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief Minister

The blessings of Lord Ayyappa and prayers of lots of devotees are behind this decision to hear the matter in the open courtKandararu Rajeevaru, Head Priest of Sabarimala shrine


Senior living societies a home away from home for elderly

Kiran Gupta, 62, lived in an old-age home for 5 years before moving to a senior living society, and finds the facilities much better here. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Kiran Gupta, 62, lived in an old-age home for 5 years before moving to a senior living society, and finds the facilities much better here. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

In 2013, Kiran Gupta wound up her business and shifted to an old-age home in Jaipur after her two children got settled. While initially things were okay at the old-age home, over the years the quality of services deteriorated and she found it difficult to stay there. Gupta, now 62, discussed the problem with her daughter, who did some research and zeroed in on a senior living housing society, Utsav Senior Living, in Bhiwadi, Haryana. Gupta, whose husband died 25 years ago, shifted there in August 2018.

“Food quality deteriorated a lot at the old age home, maintenance was low, very little assistance was available and the behaviour of the staff and organisation head was unpleasant. Compared to the old-age home, things are much better here. The facilities, amenities and the overall environment is much healthier,” said Gupta.

Pawan Bagga, 73, shifted to Ashiana Housing’s senior living project Nirmay in Bhiwadi, Haryana in July 2018. “Someone told me about this place, and I discussed the option with my children and we came to check it out. I got very impressed with the friendly and comfortable environment here and decided to live here,” said Bagga. Her husband died eight years ago. She has a son living in Australia, another in Himachal Pradesh and a daughter in Delhi. Bagga doesn’t like to travel too far, but often visits her daughter in Delhi.

Like Gupta and Bagga, more and more Indians are considering staying in senior living societies after retirement.

Read: Monetise physical assets to raise cash in your old age

The demand

Indian families are getting smaller, with children exploring job options in other cities and countries.

Moreover, there is an increase in number of elderly population in India. According to a recent report, Indian Senior Care Industry 2018, by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), “In about 30 years from now, the elderly population in India is expected to triple from 104 million in 2011 to 300 million in 2050, accounting for 18% of the total population in 2050.”

Pawan Bagga, 73, liked the friendly and comfortable environment of the senior living community she went to check out and decided to shift. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Pawan Bagga, 73, liked the friendly and comfortable environment of the senior living community she went to check out and decided to shift. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

In this scenario, the senior living real estate industry in India is witnessing a huge demand, which is going to only increase over the years. This points to a significant growth prospect for the industry. “If we look at the present scenario, there are only 20,000 units of senior living available, while the current demand is of around 230,000 units,” said Mohit Nirula, chief executive officer, Columbia Pacific Communities, a developer of retirement communities with close to 1,600 residential units under management in five cities in southern India.

The supply

With demand on the rise, real estate developers are gradually foraying into this mostly untapped segment. The ongoing slowdown in the overall housing market is also leading developers to focus on end-user products, including senior living societies.

Real estate developers such as Tata Housing, Paranjape Schemes, Ashiana Housing, Adani Realty, Silverglades and Brigade already have residential societies targeting seniors. Currently, there are 37 firms into senior living housing, according to the CII report. Apart from established developers, other business groups are also getting into this segment. For instance, Antara Senior Living, Dehradun, is a senior living community by Max India Ltd. “Considering the success of our senior living project in Dehradun and demand in the segment, we are going to launch another senior living housing project in Noida in a couple of months,” said Renuka Dudeja, head of marketing and communications, Antara Senior Living.


DIY home improvements can save cash, but they’re not without risks

Smiling woman drinking coffee on paint drop cloth

Hero Images | Hero Images | Getty Images

Going the do-it-yourself route on your next home repair or remodeling project could cut costs substantially — that is, provided you’re really as handy as you think.

Consumers have DIY-ed some 113 million home improvement projects in recent years, according to a new NerdWallet analysis of Census Bureau data.

NerdWallet looked at data from the Census Bureau’s biennial American Housing Survey, which last polled consumers in 2017 on home projects completed “in the last two years.” NerdWallet and The Harris Poll also surveyed 2,001 U.S. adults, including 1,353 homeowners, earlier this fall.

Younger homeowners were more likely to tackle projects on their own, with those ages 25 to 29 DIY-ing 59 percent of the time. That could be because student-debt-laden millennials are more apt to find the homes in their price range need work, or because they can’t afford to hire out those improvements, said Holden Lewis, a home expert with NerdWallet.

“The younger you are, you tend to be making less money and have less savings, and so you’re doing a lot yourself,” he said.


3 DMV entrepreneurs took home cash prizes at Lyft’s inaugural pitch competition

Lyft Pitch winners and judges.

(Photo by Daniel Swartz)

Lyft‘s first pitch competition drew more than 200 attendees to watch eight finalists pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win $30,000 in cash prizes to help scale their businesses.

Lyft Pitch was hosted at the Blind Whino SW Arts Club in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 and featured cocktails, mingling, 12 vendors who are also entrepreneurial Lyft drivers and lots of donuts and food trucks from The Big Cheese, DC Slices, DC Empanada, and Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken.

Technical.ly DC previously reported on the eight entrepreneurial Lyft drivers who are working with the rideshare company to fuel their own separate businesses. The expert panel of judges included Woody Hartman, VP of global operations at Lyft, Steven Scebelo, VP of business development and licensing at the NFL Players Association, Stephanie Thomas, executive director at the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Cullen Gilchrist, founder of Union Kitchen and Eileen Fagan, VP, solutions development and operations at Intuit.

Each entrepreneur had three minutes to pitch and three minutes of questioning from the judges.

Joe Himpelmann of Aspen Hill, Md., took home the grand prize of $15,000. His company, Assault Forward, sells pride of service accessories (lapel pins, cuff-links, tie-bars, etc) for veterans and patriotic Americans. Himpelmann said Assault Forward was just being conceptualized a year ago and now the company is taking home first place in its first pitch competition.

“Veterans are a valuable part of our community,” Himpelmann said. “We bring experience and skills that may be unique to the general civilian population. Hire veterans, that’s the best way to honor them.”

The reverse American lapel pin was Assault Forward’s first product when the company launched its site in March 2018. Himpelmann and Assault Forward are currently participating in WeWork‘s Veterans in Residence program in partnership with Bunker Labs, which provides space, services, business mentorship and community to help veterans and military family members starting a business, as previously reported by Technical.ly DC.

Himpelmann told Technical.ly that the funds will be put toward meeting more veterans face-to-face and online.

Ricky Organek of Fairfax Station, Va., whose company 2ndLyfe Waste Solutions ​​d​iverts and repurposes 75 percent of the garbage destined for the landfill and gives it a second life, won second place and a cash prize of $10,000. Organek said he spent about 10 years altogether building his company to what it is today.

“It’s a combination of persistence and not giving up. You’re balancing on the edge of a sword and it’s not whether or not you fall off, it’s about how much pain and how much rejection you can endure, and still stay on the course to fulfill your dreams,” Organek said. “You’re either building your dream or building someone else’s,”

Organek told Technical.ly that he will use the funds to buy a 28 acre lot of land so he can scale what he’s already doing with his business on a quarter of an acre of land.

Chris Cooke of Virginia Beach, Va., won over the crowd and received a cash prize of $5,000, sponsored by Intuit. He created Trucket, a mobile app offering users the ability to request a truck on demand for moving and hauling needs. It also provides a local marketplace to buy and sell furniture. Cooke told Technical.ly that this was Trucket’s first try at a pitch competition and that the winning funds will go toward marketing for the launch of the Trucket app at end of the year.

All of the winners said they will continue to drive for Lyft as they continue to grow their companies.