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Filmmaker James Cameron commissioned a scientific study to finally prove that only one of the Titanic lovers could float on the infamous door and survive. It’ll appear in a National Geographic special in February.

In today’s email:

  • Avatar: Will it fade like superhero movies?
  • Chart: Wikipedia donation drama.
  • Fountain soda: So many choices, so much data.
  • Around the web: Pretending to be a bot, a digital media history library, startup advice, and more.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Rob and Mark break down Elon Musk’s latest Twitter drama, Google’s new tool to decode chicken scratch, and Kohler’s toilet of the future.

The big idea
Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Movie theaters need Avatar to be a tortoise

To understand all the creatures in Pandora, the fictional world of Avatar: The Way of Water, you need a glossary. There are titanotheres, hexapedes, direhorses, and more.

But as far as the movie industry is concerned, according to the Los Angeles Times, the only question regarding animals and Avatar that matters is simple: Will The Way of Water be a tortoise or a hare?

Most blockbusters are hares

They open with huge box offices and fade.

Marvel’s blockbusters average a box office drop of ~57% between the first and second weekends. Spider-Man: No Way Home, which had the highest-grossing debut weekend in history, plummeted 68% its second weekend.

Director James Cameron has typically been an exception to this rule:

  • Titanic opened with ~$53m and followed with $71m.
  • Avatar opened with $77m and followed with $75.6m.

The Way of Water brought in $434.5m globally last weekend

According to EntTelligence, an analytics platform, the timing of the film’s gross potentially sets it up for tortoise status:

  • 53% of The Way of Water’s box office haul came from its preview night and opening day. EntTelligence claims that any share lower than 70% — the average for superhero flicks — portends a greater chance for sustained success.

The stakes are high. Americans didn’t flock to theaters over Thanksgiving, typically a major box office weekend, and theater owners badly need a hit. Plus, Cameron has said The Way of Water must make $2B+ to turn a profit.

BTW: If you see Avatar and feel sad afterwards, don’t freak out. You might just have post-Avatar depression.

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eyeball wearing a hat

Twitter Top 8? Elon Musk polled Twitter to ask if he should step down as its CEO. While 57.5% voted yes, Myspace founder Tom Anderson surfaced to reply, “Depends who you get to run it!”


Walmart’s DroneUp service is now offering drone deliveries of up to 10 pounds for $3.99 in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.

Epic Games agreed to pay a $520m fine to settle FTC allegations that it violated children’s privacy laws and tricked players into making in-game purchases.

Yikes: US consumers lost $931m to social media scams this year.

Google is making an AI-powered tool to translate bad penmanship. It’s specifically targeted toward doctors’ notes and prescriptions.

Kohler launched an $11.5k, Alexa-supported smart toilet with a heated seat, customizable bidet, and a lid that closes automatically.

Following Argentina’s World Cup win, footballer Lionel Messi’s official jerseys are sold out. Meanwhile, Adidas reported ~$424m in event-related sales in Q4.

The EU alleges Meta violated antitrust rules by tying Facebook Marketplace to Facebook, which could result in an $11.8B fine.

Network better: We published 101 professional networking tips for students, salesfolks, job hunters, entrepreneurs, and more.

Flower power: Poinsettias are the unofficial Christmas flower. But how did they get so popular? This short video breaks down how poinsettias blossomed into a holiday cash cow.

Wikipedia fundraising by year
Singdhi Sokpo

Wikipedia’s donation request drama

“Please don’t scroll past this one-minute read.”

If you go to Wikipedia this month, you may be served a mildly urgent-sounding appeal for money that begins something like that.

With 16B monthly visits, most people scroll past these notes without blinking twice. Yet, interestingly, their wording was recently the subject of  intense debate among Wikipedia’s volunteer contributors.

Many felt the message’s original language, which supposedly gave off the impression that Wikipedia was on the verge of utter financial doom, was unethical given the reality of Wikipedia’s strong financial situation, per Slate.

  • The messages are crafted by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which, in the fiscal year 2022 alone, has raised $165.2m across ~13m+ donations.
  • Between 2004 and 2020, the assets on its balance sheet grew from $57k to $180m.

In the end, the foundation and contributors were able to find common ground. In part, one of the notes now reads, “If you can comfortably afford it this year, please join the readers who donate.”

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Free Resource

Tips to survive and thrive through a recession

“You’ve been a drunken sailor the last two years,” ProfitWell founder Patrick Campbell tweeted in November. “We all have.”

In a bull market, almost everyone eats — but with B2B SaaS industry revenue slowing like it’s ‘08, many companies are preparing for a recession.

In a recent article, we broke down Patrick’s playbook for trimming a budding business during tough times. He points to minimizing fixable churn and upselling existing customers.

If we’re speaking your language, you should join Trends, where thousands of certified builders share big wins and best practices.

There’s also a weekly newsletter to keep you sharp on everything startup.

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fountain soda machine

Coke’s high-tech fountains offer valuable data

As kids, we filled our fountain cups with flavors to create overly sugary, kinda gross Frankenstein sodas. Coca-Cola evolved that technique in 2009 with its Freestyle machines.

These babies not only dispense 100+ flavors, but also send crucial data back to Coke, per Food Dive.

Freestyle machines…

… were designed by Italian car designer Pininfarina, and use the same microdispensing tech used to deliver drug dosages.

There are 50k+ Freestyles in use across restaurants, movie theaters, stores, and amusement parks, pouring 11m+ drinks daily.

Using the machine’s touchscreen or an app, customers select a base drink (e.g., Sprite, Coke, Barq’s). Then, they can add other flavors, such as vanilla, orange, or raspberry. Some machines even offer exclusive blends, like SeaWorld Orlando’s “South Pole Chill.”

For customers — and the businesses that hope to attract them — the ability to experiment is the draw.

For Coke…

… it’s the data it receives, including what, where, and when each drink was poured.

Coke uses that data to influence its R&D and distribution.

For example, if a flavor combo is particularly popular — like Sprite Cherry or Coke with Orange Vanilla — Coke might offer it in bottles or cans so its fans can drink it at home or work.

Unsurprisingly, PepsiCo released a competing machine, the Pepsi Spire, in 2014.

BTW: In 2018, Serious Eats tried 127 flavors, finding some surprisingly good and others repulsive.

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🍏 On this day: In 1996, Apple announced it would buy NeXT, the computer company Steve Jobs founded after Apple fired him in 1985. Jobs also returned as an advisor to CEO Gil Amelio.

🤖 That’s interesting: A fascinating essay on what it’s like pretending to be a bot pretending to be a person.

📚 Useful: A searchable digital library of media history.

✏️ From our blog: 90% of startups fail, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. The Hustle blog did a deep dive on business failure so you can learn what not to do.

🐷 Aww: And now, a little pig gets a bath.

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Editing by: Mark “Orange vanilla Coke” Dent.

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