October 30, 2023

Today's Topics

Good morning. The Chartr team were deeply saddened by the tragic news of Matthew Perry’s passing on Saturday, and join thousands of Friends fans and admirers alike in paying tribute to the beloved actor. Today we're exploring:

  • Correction territory: Some perspective on the S&P 500's recent fall.
  • Silver scream: One horror media company has made a killing.
  • Shelf care: Examining America's bookkeeping habits.

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On Friday, the S&P 500 entered correction territory, with the flagship index now down more than 10% from its July peak, and some 14% from the peak in December 2021. That takes the total year-to-date gains from a robust 20% to a more modest 7%.

Reality check

As it often does, the latest quarterly earnings season has offered something of a sobering reality check for the runaway stock market, with tech giants stumbling: Alphabet’s results last Tuesday saw its shares drop almost 10% for the week; Meta added to the gloom, warning of softer ad spending; and even Microsoft shares have lost 8% since their summer peak, despite continued momentum in its all-important cloud division.

Although yet to report earnings, some of the shine has come off much-hyped AI stock Nvidia (down 18% from its peak) as well. Beyond tech, Chevron, Ford, and Covid-winner Moderna have also all come under pressure for a variety of reasons, resulting in their stocks falling 13%, 19%, and 30% in the last month, respectively.

Defying gravity

The recent fall will make some big, probably Halloween-related headlines, but, as always, the drop can be thought of in two ways. On the one hand, a 14% fall from the previous peak is pretty small potatoes, something that’s happened dozens of times. On the other hand, if you’re nervous about the economy or markets more generally, the chart above suggests there’s a lot more room to fall before stocks bounce back.

Freddy, set, go

Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) — the movie adaptation of the petrifying pizzeria-based survival video game series — has grossed $78 million in its opening weekend, the 3rd-largest domestic horror opening of all time and the biggest ever Halloween weekend debut.

Although the original game was released in 2014, selling over 2 million units and launching a franchise of FNAF games, the long-awaited movie has taken over a decade to produce. Following a slew of distributor and script disputes, Blumhouse Productions — the hotshot horror-specialist behind Paranormal Activity, Get Out, and Insidious, to name a few — ultimately acquired the movie rights in 2017.

In Blum

The hit may come as a surprise to critics, who weren't exactly glowing in their reviews, but it's become yet another notch in Blumhouse’s blockbuster belt.

Indeed, Blumhouse has once again reaffirmed the profitability of the shock market: of the 90+ horror movies it has had a hand in producing since the 2000s, its top 20 have grossed nearly $1.8 billion at the US box office alone… a stellar return no matter how conservatively you estimate their take of the proceeds, considering the 20 movies cost just $165 million combined to produce.

On the whole, horror movies are renowned for their low-risk, high-reward appeal — the genre dominates rankings of the most profitable movies of all time, with Blumhouse’s own Paranormal Activity topping the list with a spine-tingling $108 million domestic gross from a $15,000budget. FNAF’s impact is especially impressive when you consider that it was simultaneously released on streaming… proving that modern audiences may still forgo Netflix for chills.

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Bookkeeping

In news sure to horrify librarians across the nation, it turns out that some 29% of Americans are letting their bookshelves descend into chaos, with no set system for organizing their collections whatsoever.

That’s according to a new survey from YouGov about book ownership and arranging, which also revealed that 22% of US adults are splitting their shelves by genre or subject, 20% are sorting by size, and 19% are adopting an alphabetical system based on titles or the author’s name. Interestingly, the sometimes-maligned (though social media-friendly) practice of color coding collections is the least popular method, with just 3% of Americans opting for the purely aesthetic approach.

Shelf care

When it comes to getting our tomes in order, the size of the collections in question often makes a big difference. Indeed, the practice of doing nothing to organize your books is only the most popular up to a point, with organization by genre/subject winning for readers with over 100 books in their collection, capping out at a whopping 45% share for readers with 1,000+ books in their personal libraries.

However, as we increasingly turn to electronic or audiobooks, as well as AI products that promise to turn titles into chatbots that you can talk to and learn from, who knows how much longer even the most voracious readers will fret over how best to sort their Shakespeares from their Sapiens.

More Data

Google is following in Amazon’s $4 billion footsteps, with its own $2 billion investment in OpenAI rival Anthropic.

• Waving goodbye on Zoom is a ritual that we just can’t shake, with 55% of us still offering the salutation to end virtual meetings.

Urban Outfitters has been making some generations feel old and unfashionable for years, though its latest offering — “vintage” iPods for ~$350 — has alienated a whole new aging cohort.

• X marks a drop: Fidelity, the financial services behemoth that put more than $300 million into Musk’s $44 billion Twitter takeover, has written down its investment in the company by 65% since the deal.

Hi-Viz

• Hometown talent may soon become a thing of the past in college football: great viz deep dive on how recruitment in the sport is changing.

Off the charts: Matthew Perry's beloved Friends character, Chandler Bing, played a central role in the two most highly-rated episodes of the show. What were they? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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