Apple's Mac Pro Pro Problem

Over the past few years, you wouldn’t needto go far to find pro-level users upset at Apple over the dearth of high-end Mac hardware from 2013ish until nowish.

Things are getting better. The iMac Pros are beasts, the rumors about the next MacBook Pro update are promising, and the soon-to-be released Mac Pro is more computer than the average person will ever use or need. But while Apple’s recent efforts have all-but overcome the weaknesses in their line-up, a recent article that happened across my desk has raised some red flags.

In the Visual Effects Roundtable over at postPerspective, the following question was asked of almost¹ every industry professional: “How will real-time ray tracing play a role in your workflow?”

Currently, the only graphics cards with realtime raytracing tech are made by Nvidia.

Apple doesn't use Nvidia cards. Apple doesn't support Nvidia cards. Apple won't even sign drivers that Nvidia made on their own². Turns out that the ole' Apple-Nvidia blood fued is still alive and kickin’ at Apple Park.

Admittedly, I have some skin in the game — my Hackintosh uses a Nvidia graphics card, and the lack of driver support in both Mojave and Catalina have negatively impacted my editing workflow as I am no longer able to run to most up-to-date version of Final Cut Pro X. While getting official Nvidia support would be a boon to me, that's beside the point. Why make one of the most powerful desktops on the market if it is unable to use the most advanced graphics cards? For a VFX house looking at investing in new technology, if they are even thinking about real-time ray tracing, all Apple devices are immediately out of contention. The lack of Nvidia cards will undermine the Pro in Mac Pro.


  1. Notably, they didn’t ask the AMD representative this question.

  2. While nothing is technically stopping Nvidia from writing and releasing their own drivers, because Apple won't sign them the OS will be unable to verify the integrity or legitimacy of the file. Understandably, Nvidia is leery of releasing them this way.


MoviePass: Fallout

Just when you think MoviePass is dead and gone, The Ringer publishes an interview with MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe and Executive Vice President Khalid Itum, where they detail their struggle to keep MoviePass afloat. At one point Itum remarked that the weekend Mission Impossible: Fallout came out was when they realized “…that we can’t necessarily provide the service we had been providing..."

You don't say.

My argument, from the beginning, was that MoviePass was an interesting idea, but one that was poorly thought out and poorly implemented. The fact that they didn't realize this until almost one year after announcing their "Unlimited Movies for $9.95 Plan" is, sadly, unsurprising.

“Over 80 percent of subscribers were great customers,” says Lowe—“great,” in this case, meaning rule-abiding and low-frequency. “We were roughly breaking even on that group.”

Like gyms at the start of every new year, MoviePass was banking on generating revenue from people signing up for the service and then never using it. But given the cost of the monthly subscription and the average cost of a movie ticket in the United States, I’m surprised that they were breaking even on 80% of their consumer base. The teensiest amount of research would have warned them about frequent moviegoers. They account for 48% of ticket sales in the domestic market and not only would they be the most interested in a theater subscription service, they would be the ones who would benefit the most from it. Or, to borrow Lowe’s own parlance: not great customers.

I, for one, fell into that ‘not so great’ category of customer. Then again – and I’ll admit this is entirely anecdotal — I ran into many people in LA who signed up for the service, and immediately began to see movies on a weekly basis. At $9.95 a month, MoviePass was cheaper than a matinee ticket at most area theaters, and you could go (almost) as much as you wanted. As analyst Michael Pachter noted when interviewed for the article:

“Nobody was dumb enough to sign up for MoviePass and not use it.” When I ask Pachter what MoviePass’s biggest mistake was in 2018, he doesn’t hold back: “Their biggest mistake was launching.”

But not only did they not think through how their customers would use the service, they apparently didn’t think through how they should approach the exhibitors.

MoviePass fashioned itself as a disruptor, and thus, behaved disruptively. It demanded that exhibitors share profits with it on concessions; it demanded exhibitors provide discounts on tickets; boasting its marketing heft and ability to push users toward specific movies, it demanded deals from distributors.
What they failed to anticipate, for some reason, was the way the industry—both exhibitors and distributors—responded to this behavior. “The cinema business is quite a small business actually,” says David Hancock, the director of research and analysis for cinema and home entertainment at IHS Markit. “It’s a relatively restricted number of people in there, and they know each other relatively well. You often get outsiders coming in, not understanding the business, and [they] say, ‘We’re going to impose this on you guys.’ Each time this happens, the business closes ranks. [And] the way MoviePass came in, they were just asking to be isolated.”

As I wrote way back when: “[the exhibitors hesitance] doesn't mean that the exhibition industry isn't prime for some disruption, just that MoviePass needs to prove that it's the way to do it.” And evidently they did. But pissing off the distributors and exhibitors while doing it isn’t exactly the path to success. The history of MoviePass can be described as a a seemingly unending series of poor executions around a decent idea. And, as a user, that was evident from the beginning.

There is a UI design philosophy that Apple codified back in the 1980s on the Mac —one that is still used today on both macOS and iOS. You probably haven’t noticed it, but pay attention the next time you are prompted to choose ‘Yes’, ’Okay’, or ‘Confirm’. There’s a really good chance — as in 99% or higher — that those options will be on the bottom right of the dialogue screen. This means, assuming that the program adheres to the design philosophy that is suppossed to be implemented universally across the system, you shouldn’t need to read the options. You would instinctively know where it is: The bottom right.

When I first signed up form MoviePass, I kept running into an error where I would input my MoviePass card number into the system, and it would cancel out. I did this multiple times before finally realizing my error: The ‘Confirm’ button was on the left, not the standard right.

When I complained to my friends, they laughed and — fairly — pointed out that it was my fault for not reading the dialogue box. But that was beside the point. In a properly designed app, I wouldn’t need to read it.

MoviePass: Poorly thought out and poorly implemented, through and through.

Under Construction

For the record: I fully support building a wall.

A wall is a tried and true method of restricting the flow of people. But I think we need to take a lesson from history to make sure that this wall is impervious.

There is an old infantry tactic where they’d ‘form square’ — which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The infantrymen would stand and form a hollow square with lines of soldiers facing out in each direction. This would enable them to withstand a cavalry attack on all sides. Our wall must do the same and ‘form square’.

Then, on each corner of the wall, we should put a guard outpost. In each outpost, armed guards will make sure that no one gets over the wall.

Once the wall is complete, we need to build a secure facility within. Windows in this facility will utilize artistically designed steel slats, or bars, to ensure that no one can breach the security of this facility, while still enabling the tenants to see outside.

And inside this facility we can place Donald Trump and all the key members of his totally legit businesses and his Collusion-Free Campaign (™ Vladimir Putin 2016) to ensure that they stay safe!

Expanded Thoughts: "The Miseducation of Cameron Post"

After I saw the film, I did what I always do: I pulled up the film's page on IMDb (I'm a sucker for the trivia page). The first thing I noticed was the film's rating: 6.8/10.

I don't necessarily disagree with the rating—If I had to give it a numeric rating, it'd be slightly higher1—but this review, "Could Have Done More" by allenwhybray caught my eye:

"Cameron starts humming "What's Going On" and within minutes is standing on the table singing it loud and proud. There's an inherent energy in that scene that often feels missing from the rest of the picture. Also, the people in this story are flesh-and-blood examples of a tragic emotional Stockholm Syndrome that should not be. I just wish the story did more with them."

As I read their review, I found myself agreeing with allenwhybray. I wanted there to be more energy in the film. But the more I thought about it, the more I understood why the filmmakers would choose not to.

When Cameron is caught in a lesbian tryst, she gets sent away for conversion therapy. In the aforementioned singing scene, it ends with the camp therapist giving Cameron mail privileges—with the subversive goal of having Cameron read a letter from her former lover, where she blames Cameron for "taking advantage of her". In one scene, the character Mark, angrily reacting to the news that his father won't let him come home—he is still "too feminine"—ends with Mark literally being kept down on the ground by the camp therapist's foot, while she tells Mark that she will only let him up when he calms down.

Any time a character has an outburst of emotion, or acts as their true self, they are punished. The film reflects the reality the characters were living in.

You can read my short review of this film and others over at



1. The inherent nitpicking that comes with a numeric score is exactly why I use an expanded up-down system at 50 Words or Less.

MoviePass 3D: Attack of the A-Listers

If you work at MoviePass, you know your company's future is in question when Vanity Fair runs the headline "Enjoy MoviePass While You Can, Folks". Only a few days ago, Business Insider reported that MoviePass lost $40 million in May alone, and that it would need to raise up to $1.2 billion in additional funding. While they’ve taken actions to bring down their costs— such as blacking out new releases, allowing subscribers to only see a movie once, and will soon start charging you a fee to see a movie during 'peak hours'— conventional wisdom is that MoviePass will fail; it’s just a question of when.

But despite all this, tomorrow AMC Theatres is launching “Stubs A-List”, a new teir of their existing membership program centered on a MoviePass-esque subscription plan for $19.95 a month. With this program, AMC now joins Cinemark in offering a subscription service, which leaves Regal as the only major American theater chain without one. But why would they do this? You’d think given all the financial woes facing MoviePass, my own pessimistic appraisal of MoviePass would lead to an equally pessimistic appraisal of AMC’s A-List program. But, I think there’s more at play here than many realize:

  1. They know more than we do — As the largest theater chain in the United States, AMC has a huge advantage, even over MoviePass, of determining the impact a subscription ticket service can have.
    All MoviePass cards are actually a MasterCard. Through backend trickery—and a requirement for customers to verify the purchase—these cards can only be used to purchase tickets at approved theaters. After MoviePass launched its $9.95 subscription plan, if AMC saw a significant increase in tickets being purchased using a MasterCard, and a similar increase in attendance, it would be a safe guess to attribute that growth to MoviePass. But they can even take this further. Because MoviePass can only be used for tickets, if MasterCard usage didn’t increase at the concessions stand, but, like attendance, there was a notable increase in concessions sales, those sales could also be attributed to MoviePass users. With that data, AMC could easily determine if launching their own service would be profitable. In other words: AMC has done the math. Some other foolish company paid tens of millions of dollars to prove the concept.
  2. Customer Lock In - With MoviePass, you can use it (almost) everywhere. If AMC noted an increase in attendance, it would follow that this increase wasn’t limited to any one theater or chain. I’m sure someone inside AMC corporate just sees that as potential lost sales. It's just a matter of convincing consumers that A-List is a better deal than MoviePass.
  3. The Middle Man - MoviePass is little more than a middle man. MoviePass pays the full price of the ticket, and they hope that in the future their losses will be offset, either through advertising partnerships with the studios or by receiving a cut of the ticket and concessions sales from the theater. In the already thin margin business of film exhibition, giving another vendor a cut of the sales isn’t appealing. This is greatest weakness of MoviePass's business plan—without these partnerships, they have no hope for profitability. And if you are AMC, why would you cut a deal with the middle man? You could launch your own program, and any (potential) increase in revenue would be yours to keep. 

The TL;DR — While MoviePass is doomed to fail, there is a chance that AMC’s program will actually succeed.


Had it happened elsewhere in the world, the response would be unanimous. We would decry the perpetrators, call them criminals, and demand action.

It is disturbing that such an atrocity is occurring on our southern border, and alarming that some would speak up to defend it.

Our history as a nation isn’t perfect. We’ve struggled to uphold one of our founding principals that all are created equal, and we sometimes have lapsed in providing due process of law. We’ve told ourselves that these troubles lie in our past, but here they are, a terror in the present.

He may proclaim love for the flag, but Trump’s continued actions betray the ideas, hopes, and dreams of the republic for which it stands.

Dear Lucasfilm: Can we please keep "Star Wars" Christmas?

I have been accused, quite possibly fairly, of being a grinch. It's not that I don't like the holiday season, I just get grinchy when Christmas music gets played outside the acceptable confines of Black Friday through about 10pm Christmas Day.

For the past decade, Christmas has diminished in its importance for my family. My parents have yet to recover from the cataclysm that was "The Recession". My father is now too old, too experienced, and therefor too damned expensive, that getting work is still a struggle. And since America criminally undervalues education, my mother's income as a teacher isn't enough for them to survive. Christmas has become a tragic symbol of our struggle to try to get the family together, if only once a year.

Between Christmases without the parents, celebrations occuring on different days due to work schedules, and a long standing moratorium on giving presents, my joy for the day itself has slowly eroded away—by my late teens my favorite part of Christmas was the watching someone as they would open that awesome gift they didn't know they wanted. But now, the only reason Christmas was the time of year we'd get together was the fact that it was the only time my dad could get away from whatever office he was working at and my mom, my sister, and I would be off from school. It could've been April for all we cared. The Christmas season stopped being special.

And then The Force Awakens happened.

For the past two years, having had Star Wars for Christmas, it's given me something to look forward to. While my parents aren't the biggest fans, yet Star Wars is something that my sister and I have shared since we were kids. Star Wars at Christmas time offered me the joy of something new to share with her, and with my friends. I love "Star Wars Christmas".

But time and again, Lucasfilm keeps trying to shoehorn Star Wars back into May. I mean, I get it. Star Wars is the film that gave us the idea of the summer blockbuster. Up until The Force Awakens, every film had been released in May. There's tradition there. But having all the films release in December is letting us build a new one. And I want to keep this one.

So please, dear Lucasfilm/Disney/Santa, can we please keep Star Wars Christmas?

Let's Play A Guessing Game: "The Last Jedi" Edition

Back in 2015 I made a few predictions about the story and plot of The Force Awakens, and I ended up getting some right.

Unlike The Force Awakens, where I was watching and reading everything Lucasfilm put out in order to try and figure out as much as I could, with The Last Jedi, I've been actively avoiding trailers and errata in order to go in spoiler free. With that in mind, this time I only have three predictions, and only one concerns the plot:

  1. We won't get a solid answer concerning Rey's background. Some mysteries need a third movie. When The Force Awakens first came out, I was certain that she was a secret Skywalker. But the more I've thought about it, the less certain I've become. I think she's connected to the Skywalker's, but that could mean anything from being Luke's daughter or the theorized Kenobi love child. While I expect us to get hints to her parent's identity in this film, I don't think we'll get solid answers until the next one. [Watch as I'm wrong and Luke says "Rey, I am your father." in this movie.]
  2. Somebody loses an hand. It's tradition. In the second movie of a Star Wars trilogy, someone gets a hand chopped off by a lightsaber. If I was going to make a guess for bonus points, I'd say it's KyloBen. Because the last two times, it was the Skywalker who loses the hand. {Again, if Rey loses a hand...]
  3. Princess Leia's Theme will close out the end credits. A worthwhile tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.

As for the box office side of things, as I wrote awhile back, the average Star Wars saga film will open to $207 million, and would gross $705 million total in the domestic box office. I think The Last Jedi will perform slightly higher, and will open closer to $215 million, with a total gross of $730 million.

What the Hell Happened to Logan?

Long story short, it involves getting sick, family coming to visit, and a computer dying. So a lot of stuff has happened, so let's just dig right in to the last month's worth of news.

Rian Johnson to direct a new, standalone Star Wars trilogy

This was inevitable. Star Wars needs to exist without having the Skywalker's at the center.

Normally, news like this would've been announced after The Last Jedi had come out to rave reviews and a stellar box office start. The fact that Lucasfilm announced it months before the release speaks volumes about the working relationship that Johnson built up with Kathleen Kennedy, the head of Lucasfilm, but also the caliber of film that he put together. I know it help throw my own hype for The Last Jedi into overdrive.

Amazon working on a Lord of the Rings TV series

If anyone at Amazon ever reads this: Hire Me.
I seriously have most of the books you'd need for research sitting on a bookshelf.

While I am excited by the prospects of a Lord of the Rings television series, early details on the project describe it as a Fellowship of the Ring prequel series. This could mean a lot of things—from The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, t0 simply expanding upon the appendices in The Return of the King. This definitely can be handled right, but I'm cautious. Are they not going to make The Lord of the Rings? Is this supposed to be an anthology series? I can't wait until we can get more details. But, again: Hire me.

EA shits the bed

The Battlefront II microtransaction fiasco got so much attention, that a Reddit post by EA got over half-a-million downvotes, it made headlines in the mainstream press, and even lead to some governments investigating whether or not loot boxes are a form of gambling. The negative press got so bad that Disney stepped in and told EA to right the ship.

Frustration has been building up in the gaming community for a while over microtransactions, DLC, and "pay-to-win" schemes intended to make publishers and developers more money—and EA is often at the core of many of these complaints. While most can and will forgive cosmetic microtransactions, Battlefront II's would actually impact gameplay and were a complete mess. The fact that iconic heroes like Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker were locked behind a 40+ hour grind and/or a paywall, lead to all the complaints being dialed up to eleven. The negative press got so bad that EA removed to ability to purchase items in-game only hours prior to the game's official launch. But all this didn't stop the many cries of "Boycott!"

The Disney-Fox Merger

Expected to be announced tomorrow, but rumors have been swirling around for awhile that Disney is going to buy 21st Century Fox from News Corp. Murdoch keeps news and sports—his bread and butter—Disney gets everything else. This news has fans everywhere salivating. Will we see Wolverine in The Avengers? Will the Fox Fanfare play in front of Star Wars films again? How many merger jokes will be in Deadpool 2?

While fanboys and fangirls everywhere have much to be excited about, having one less major studio around is troubling. A shrinking Hollywood might be good for Wall Street, but not really for the people trying to make a living creating the content we consume.

And Finally:

Doug Jones wins in Alabama. Parliament throws a wrench into Teresa May's Brexit plans. It's almost like December rolled around and 2017 went "Oh shit! I should probably work on cleaning up some of that mess that 2016 left."



Back in January 2016, I visited a friend stationed in Hawaii. This was due more to luck of timing rather than actual planning. The Force Awakens had loosened its grip on the universe, and I had no side jobs lined up, so I was able to take the time off work on a whim. This of course had the side effect of having no itinerary other than "see Oahu".

My friend serves in the Navy, and a side perk of Navy dress uniform is free addmitance to the U.S.S. Missouri, so that moved Pearl Harbor to the top position in my non-existant plan. But the first stop that day was the Arizona.

As you get close to the U.S.S. Arizona memorial, the air reeks of oil. It gets up in your nose and overwhielms any other smell. No salt-tinged sea breeze, just oil.

To call the Arizona a memorial is almost a disservice. It is a tomb. You wander in a dazed silence knowing that the bodies of one thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven men—killed in an instant as an explosion ripped through the hull—lay buried beneath the waves. But the smell of oil lingers, more permanant than the stench of death itself.

My friend took my picture, so I'd have something to show and share. I didn't really want him to. This isn't a memory or a place you visit and plaster all over Facebook. I've never shared the photo. I don't need it to remember. I have the smell.

50 Words or Less

I'm trying something new. Whenever I catch a movie in the theater, I'll sit down and write a review of the film. But, seeing as I'm incredibly lazy and don't actually want to write some long-winded, in-depth reviews, I'm going to write short reviews. Like, really short reviews. As in reviews nine words shorter than this paragraph.

I'm calling this project 50 Words or Less. The reviews will be posted here on A Rant In Progress and at If you want to stay up-to-date, you can also follow @50WordsReviews on Twitter.

These reviews will use an easy to understand, emoji-based ratings system:

Must See 🎟
Thumbs Up 👍
Thumbs Down 👎
Avoid at all costs 🚫

Edit: The reviews are no longer being posted to A Rant In Progress. The newest review can be seen in the sidebar, and all reviews are posted here.

Apple’s Billion-Dollar Bet on Hollywood Is the Opposite of Edgy

Lucas Shaw for Bloomberg:

"However, Apple isn’t interested in the types of shows that become hits on HBO or Netflix, like Game of Thrones—at least not yet. The company plans to release the first few projects to everyone with an Apple device, potentially via its TV app, and top executives don’t want kids catching a stray nipple. Every show must be suitable for an Apple Store. Instead of the nudity, raw language, and violence that have become staples of many TV shows on cable or streaming services, Apple wants comedies and emotional dramas with broad appeal, such as the NBC hit This Is Us, and family shows like Amazing Stories. People pitching edgier fare, such as an eight-part program produced by Gravity filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón and starring Casey Affleck, have been told as much."

So, a whole lotta 'meh'.

Fantasy Flight Interactive Studio Formed to Bring Fantasy Flight’s Tabletop Properties to the Digital Realm

Don't expect Fantasy Flight's Star Wars games to suddenly appear on Steam or the App Store. Scuttlebutt on r/boardgames is that Fantasy Flight had run into trouble trying to make mobile companion apps for those games—video game rights to the franchise are firmly in the grips of EA.

The 'New' United States of America

Evidently it's map week on my website. Ben Blatt at Slate:

"Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers. I wanted to know what the country might look like if we threw out all of the East’s ancient squiggles and the West’s rigid squares, and reconstituted the country as a union of states of equal population."

Some of the maps he came up with are hilarious.

Predicting "The Last Jedi"

The trailer for The Last Jedi is out! Tickets are on sale! I've unsubbed from r/StarWars because I'm on spoiler alert! That means it's time to start guessing how much The Last Jedi is going to make at the box office!

Back when The Force Awakens came out, we all knew it was going to be big, but we were struggling with how to define it. When you're working on box office projections, you look at the soon-to-be-released film, compile a list of similar films to compare it to, and then use the box office performances of those films to come up with a guess of how the film in question will perform. For example, I would bet that 99% of people coming up with box office projections for Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to an 80s sci-fi thriller, compared it to Mad Max: Fury Road, a sequel to an 80s spec-fi action film.

There was nothing for The Force Awakens.

There was some who immediately wanted to compare it to Avatar. It too was a major blockbuster that had a December release, so surely The Force Awakens would perform similarly. A smaller opening weekend compared to your summer blockbuster—Avatar only made $87 million opening weekend—but it'll make up for that with long legs. But that comparison didn't feel right. Compared to The Force AwakensAvatar had been a quiet release. Star Wars hype was everywhere leading up to December. With every trailer, the fanbase would get more excited—from what we could tell, every problem and quibble we had about the prequels was being addressed. Industry tracking about audience awareness indicated that 100% of Americans knew that a new Star Wars film was coming out. You would've had to live in the mountains with no internet or human contact for at least five years to not know that a new Star Wars film was coming out. The hype was real.

Yet people still persisted in comparing The Force Awakens to other December releases. No December release had an opening weekend over $100 million, they'd say. Maybe Star Wars can, but there's no way in hell it'll cross $200 million. The most it could do was $175 million, and that's if the pun-intended stars aligned. r/boxoffice was convinced that anyone who thought it could hit $200 million on it's opening weekend was a fanboy, and had no idea what they were talking about. It's not that these people were necessarily wrong or foolish. They were trying to apply conventional wisdom to a film that increasingly looked like it would have an unconventional performance. I bucked the conventional wisdom. and sometime in November I had settled around a $215 million opening weekend. But as the opening day approached, I had good reason to doubt my numbers. A contact in-the-know offered insight into Disney's internal numbers: The Force Awakens had already sold $175 million in tickets for opening weekend, and we were still a week-and-a-half from release. After the initial sale of tickets in October, ticket sales had seemingly flatlined, but as we approached opening day, people were buying tickets almost as fast as theaters were putting them on sale. To this day I'm surprised this info never leaked—there's a reason why I noted that my $215 million estimate was conservative.

A few weeks before The Force Awakens opened, I was talking with the theater's then programmer and its former programmer—these were the guys who scheduled the showtimes and did the internal box office projections for our location1—and one posited the theory that we needed use a "historical comp" for The Force Awakens. Conventional box office prediction looks at recent releases; anything older than three to four years is out of date. Even comparing The Force Awakens to Avatar was pushing it, and the only reason Avatar was even brought up was that people were struggling to come up with recent films that felt like an accurate comparison. During our conversation, we concluded that the only film that had the same cultural awareness and hype was The Phantom Menace.

The only thing you can use to predict Star Wars is Star Wars.

When Rogue One was getting closer to release, I decided to test this theory. Management at the theater was prepping for Rogue One to be only slightly smaller than The Force Awakens. I argued that The Force Awakens was a statistical outlier. Since we couldn't find good comparisons for The Force Awakens, we then shouldn't use it to make predictions. It was its own beast, and to even think that anything would come close again in the near future was foolish. I decided that the best comparison film was, of all things, Revenge of the Sith. I felt that Revenge of the Sith had two things going for it. 1) It had been received warmly by the fanbase. 2) The latter two prequel films had little appeal in the general audience. Rogue One's marketing, and Disney's own expectations, made me think that they were expecting this film to appeal mainly to the fans, and not so strongly with the general audience. And since the fans had been energized by The Force AwakensRogue One would be greeted by an appreciative audience.

BoxOfficeMojo has a handy little feature that lets you adjust a film's box office gross as if it had been released a different year. The tool is by no means scientific, but it's good enough for what I needed. I adjusted Revenge of the Sith to get a 2016 estimate and got this: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - $380,270,577 Actual / $513,157,600 Adjusted to 2016Rogue One would go on to gross $532,177,324, a variance of $19,019,724, or 3.574%. So, while not perfect, it's pretty damn good.

At the time, I hadn't thought to try and use Revenge of the Sith to estimate an opening weekend gross for Rogue One. How audiences see movies has changed since 2005—over time, opening weekends have increasingly represented larger and larger chunks of the total gross. So, instead of looking at Revenge of the Sith's opening weekend numbers, a better idea would be to apply a multiplier to the anticipated total gross. If you've never followed box office results before, a multiplier is basically another way of saying how much of the film's total was made on opening weekend. For example, a multiplier of 2 would mean that a film's total gross will be double what it made opening weekend. A multiplier of 3 would mean its total gross would be three times the opening weekend numbers. In short, a higher multiplier is better. The average 'well-performing' blockbuster typically has a multiplier in the 3.0-3.5 range. So, if we take the adjusted Revenge of the Sith gross, and divide it by your average multiplier, 3.3, you would get an approximate opening weekend total of $155,502,300Rogue One made $155,081,681. So while the math is by no means perfect, it can at least get us in the ballpark.

So now, for The Last Jedi, the trick is figuring out what exactly we should use as a comparison. So let's look at all the Star Wars films, in release order and with adjusted grosses:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - $936,662,225
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - $532,177,324
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith - $380,270,577 Actual / $513,157,600 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: Attack of the Clones - $302,191,252 Actual / $449,906,100 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - $431,088,295 Actual / $733,743,200 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - $252,583,617 Actual / $700,506,300 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - $209,398,025 Actual / $682,158,400 Adjusted to 2016
Star Wars: A New Hope - $307,263,857 Actual / 1,234,649,200 Adjusted to 2016

Here's that info as a handy dandy chart:

"Star Wars" Box Office Grosses (Adjusted)

Total Grosses adjusted using

While we might be quick to jump on the first obvious trend—that the second film each trilogy sees a considerable drop—I think using that to deduce potential box office numbers for The Last Jedi is a trap. The drop from A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back is a whopping 44.75%, and Attack of the Clones sees an equally stunning 38.78% drop from The Phantom Menace. If The Last Jedi were to see a similar drop from The Force Awakens, the box office gross would only be $545 million. There are easy explanations for the earlier drops. Not only did The Empire Strikes Back receive a mediocre response upon its releaseA New Hope was such a massive hit, anything following was going to see a considerable drop. And Attack of the Clones was not only poorly received, but many in the fanbase felt like they’d been burnt by The Phantom Menace. However, a $545 million gross would align this film with the performances of Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. If this ends up being the final result, I see two possible reasons: Critics and the fans find The Last Jedi to be lacking, or the potential gross of the average Star Wars film is around $550 million. Either way, a result like this would be troubling for Disney and Lucasfilm.

However, I think we can take a more optimistic appraisal. First, both The Force Awakens and Rogue One were well received by fans and critics alike, so there's definitely more goodwill going into The Last Jedi. Secondly, Deadline already has tracking indicating that presale tickets are outperforming Rogue One, and are "just under" The Force Awakens. Finally, I think we should look more closely at the box office performances of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace. Why these three films instead of any of the others is simple. Both A New Hope and The Force Awakens are such extreme examples, that it's best to consider them to be statistical anomalies—including them would only skew the results. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith had been released to a leery fanbase and disinterested public after The Phantom Menace. While there is definitely an instinct to lump in The Phantom Menace with the other prequels, from a box office perspective, the film was largely unaffected by the scorn it developed among the fanbase. And Rogue One was intended to be a "smaller" release compared to the "Saga" films. That leaves The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace. If these three films are indicative of the average performance of a Star Wars saga film, than the average potential domestic gross is around $705 million.

But how about the opening weekend? The Force Awakens had a multiplier of 3.78 and Rogue One had a multiplier of 3.43. I would hazard a guess that The Last Jedi will perform closer to Rogue One than it will to The Force Awakens—it was the sequel many had been waiting over 30 years for, it was destined to over-perform. So let’s guess that a typical Star Wars film performs with a 3.4 multiplier. So, a $705 million gross with a 3.4 multiplier gets us an opening weekend number of $207 million.

The method used to get these numbers is by no means scientific, but this gives us decent guidance for The Last Jedi, and possibly for future Star Wars releases.

The Soviet Military Program that Secretly Mapped the Entire World

Greg Miller at National Geographic:

"During the Cold War, the Soviet military undertook a secret mapping program that’s only recently come to light in the West. Military cartographers created hundreds of thousands of maps and filled them with detailed notes on the terrain and infrastructure of every place on Earth. It was one of the greatest mapping endeavors the world has ever seen."