(Phillip Arredondo, Helen Kwan, Sara Lannin and Erik Silk contributed to this report)
More than 126,000 journalists, tech industry insiders, and other gadget enthusiasts converged on Las Vegas in January for the Consumer Electronics Show, most armed with one or more cutting-edge, Internet-enabled smart devices such as iPhones and tablets.
Dean Schaffer, Alexandra Wexler, Whitney Mountain and Jamie Hansen contributed reporting for this article
Great white sharks have been saddled with a bad reputation for being man-eaters, which can be attributed to movies like 'Jaws.' (Photo: Alexandra Wexler)
“If you wanted to get shark-bitten, I could tell you how to do it,” said John McCosker, a great white shark expert and chair of the Department of Aquatic Biology at the California Academy of Sciences. “If you wanted to avoid getting shark-bitten with 100% assurance, I can’t, other than staying out of the water. But I will also say that you’re very safe in California water.”
Indeed, despite a 25 percent increase in shark attacks worldwide from 2009 to 2010, the number of attacks in California stayed constant at just four, according to a report released this month by the International Shark Attack File. Here are the key numbers for 2010:
There were 79 attacks worldwide—the most since 2000, when there were 80. See the “Global Shark Attacks, 2010” map below for an interactive map of the attacks.
Florida had the most attacks of any state in the United States, with 13—down from 18 in 2009. See the United States map below for an interactive map of all the attacks that occurred in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010.
North Carolina also had more attacks than California, with five.
California tied South Carolina and Hawaii with four each.
Both California and Florida had one fatal attack; all other states had none.
See the graphs after the jump for more detailed statistics and trends.
Spending all day sitting in McDonalds, with all entrances and exits in sight, counting people, probably doesn’t sound fun—or productive. But after doing just that, not once, but multiple times at McDonalds and Au Bon Pain, Christina Roberto, a Yale graduate student and researcher for the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesityfound that almost no one paid any attention to nutritional information, even with it right in front of them. Recently, California decided to make that information more obvious for consumers—with mixed results.
While researchers debate whether or not diners change their order because they know how many calories it has, calorie counts are still missing from many California fast-food restaurants three months after the deadline to begin displaying them.
The Subway at Stanford's Tresidder Student Union has calories labeled on its menu boards. Photo: Kelsey Williams
With an eye on growing obesity levels in the United States and rising health care costs, the state passed a law in 2008 requiring that all restaurants with 20 or more locations in California display calorie counts on menus and indoor menu boards by the beginning of 2011.
“Considering the high health benefit this information provides to consumers and the high health care costs of nutrition- and obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, menu labeling provides a necessary tool to address poor nutrition and obesity,” said Taryn Kinney in an e-mail, spokesperson for one of the bill’s sponsors Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
The law followed similar ordinances in other states including New York and Washington. Congress, also recently passed a federal menu labeling law, which may actually be holding up the implementation of the California statute.
Egyptians flocked to Cairo’s downtown Midan Tahrir to protest every day from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11 in an 18-day revolution that drove out Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, and opened the doors to democratic reform in a country that had been called “democratic” for decades, ignoring that the elections were rigged.
The Egyptian people reached a tipping point for historic economic trends, but online social media helped organize and connect the protestors. Social media now can bring the protestors together a second time, to contribute to a crowd-sourced documentary project: 18DaysInEgypt.
Camera-phones, flip cams, twitter and facebook are ubiquitous (yes, even in Egypt). Media from the revolution exists—and 18DaysInEgypt will organize it and ultimately create a documentary using photos, videos, tweets and facebook updates tagged with #18Days. Visit www.18DaysInEgypt.com to participate or learn more about the project.
The famed Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto shown in 1925 at its grand opening (Photo: Palo Alto Historical Association)
An affluent college town like Palo Alto is an ideal breeding ground for art house theaters. Nevertheless, attendance figures are down, and owners speculate that there is dwindling interest in the theater-going experience.
“Palo Alto and the Bay Area reflect the declining number of theaters at the U.S. level,” said Sally Gifford, Public Affairs Specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts.
Gifford cited recent statistics from the Census Bureau, which reported that nonprofit theaters are struggling. In 2002, there were 22 professional non-profit theaters operating in the Bay Area. By 2007, there were only 15.
Movie theaters are forced to compete for a decreasing customer base of wealthy and educated residents, who have traditionally kept them afloat through membership and donations.
It is not only non-profit theaters that are struggling. National chain Landmark Theatres is in direct competition with CinéArts, a property of the larger Cinemark corporation. Both chains shows independent and foreign films. “Attendance is down,” said Rachael Wordhouse-Dykema, manager of the Aquarius, a Palo Alto Landmark theater. “Landmark used to have four theaters, and, now, it only has two.”
The Peninsula was once filled with small movie theaters, but many have been converted for other uses or demolished (Doug Ray)
Boutique theaters also face competition from the growth of high definition technology. Moreover, the increase in illegal movie downloading has been a blow to all theaters across the country.
Wordhouse-Dykema said movie theaters had been hit hard in recent years. “It seems like the movie industry in general is sort of dwindling and that’s why they are bringing out these fancy features, like 3-D and the other things that draw people outside of their homes.”
John Farr, film critic for the Huffington Post, and co-founder of a non-profit theater in Stamford, Conn., said he feared that “smart people” increasingly expected to “sit there and be electrified” at the theaters.
Farr said art houses and non-profit theaters cater to an older and more affluent audience. Big budget movies offer an escapist experience, while foreign and classic films are thought provoking. “Hollywood has been serving their mainstream young teen audience,” he said with a sigh. “They care about violence, explosions and comic books.”
Bay Area boutique theater owners agreed that their films do not have mass appeal. “We get a lot of students and seniors,” admitted Rebecca MacKnight, general manager of the Palo Alto CinéArts.
According to Ross Melnick, co-founder of cinematreasures.org, “The person tends to be 15-24, better educated and richer. These films are supposed to appeal to a group interested in “higher class” film with a driven narrative versus a spectacle with ideas versus action.”
A box office clerk at the Stanford Theater, who requested to remain anonymous, said, “On University Avenue, you’ve got Stanford students and educated people and people who can appreciate black and white movies, which is for some reason considered an obstacle to the public audience”
Movie theaters must fight to survive by creating new experiences for their customers. But recent innovations have been met with varying degrees of success. While CinéArts regularly features live opera, Wordhouse-Dykema said the Aquarius Theater would not consider showing opera or live sports. She noted, “Our clientele doesn’t come here to the theater to watch the Sharks play.”
The Stanford Theater has fared better than its competitors. It has benefited from a donation from David Packard, and was restored to its former glory in the late 1980s.
“It’s a cathedral of cinema,” said the box office attendant. “It’s recreating down to the lighting in the projectors what the experience would have been like in the mid-1920s and early 1930s.”
He added, “That is the difference between the multiplexes and [this theater]. This place is about creating the experience.”
The Aquarius Theater Section by Joe Ciolli and Doug Ray
The bright marquee of the Aquarius lights up Emerson St. in Palo Alto (Photo: Doug Ray)
The Aquarius Theater is a boutique theater located on Emerson Street just off University Avenue in Palo Alto that specializes in independent foreign films. A chain called Landmark Theaters, which owns over 20 theaters across the U.S., operates the Aquarius.
Another boutique called the Guild, also owned by Landmark, is less than two miles away in Menlo Park. Rachael Wordhouse-Dykema, who serves as manager for the two theaters, said that there is definitely adequate demand for both despite their close proximity.
Aquarius competes to attract the same demographic as other boutique theaters in the Peninsula. Wordhouse-Dykema believes that the Aquarius fits well into the more educated, upscale vibe in the surrounding community. “The Palo Alto crowd really likes these artsy, intellectual films,” she said. “They go out to dinner, catch some foreign cinema. It’s a very high-brow experience.”
Despite the success of the Aquarius and Guild, Wordhouse-Dykema sees a downward trend in the movie-going experience. “Attendance is down, mostly because of the home theater trend,” she said. “A lot of people have huge theaters in their homes.”
Wordhouse-Dykema also noted that digital cable is cutting into the Aquarius’ profitability. Providers like Comcast have started making foreign films available at the same time that the Aquarius screens them.
To complicate matters further, the Aquarius competes against not only other boutique theaters, but also large multiplexes. However, Wordhouse-Dykema thinks that the theater does well to differentiate itself.
“We offer more intellectual fare than the bigger theaters,” she said. “We know a lot of regulars by name. And all our employees are willing to sit down and chat about what’s coming out.”
Wordhouse-Dykema said CinéArts bought the Palo Alto Square theater from under Landmark’s nose. She said the lease was near its end, and landmark was going to renew, but CinéArts made a quick purchase. “CinéArts is directly competing for our business,” she said.
But how exactly do boutique theaters like the Aquarius make money? Look no further than the concession counter.
“We make much more money off concessions than anything else, which is why prices are so high,” said Wordhouse-Dykema. “We make a very small percentage of the ticket price.”
Wordhouse-Dykema noted that the staff at the Aquarius tries to counterbalance these high prices with good customer service. After all, the theater is hamstrung by a lack of revenue streams. While multiplexes pad their profitability with pre-show advertising, this is a luxury many boutique theaters don’t enjoy.
Take a look inside the Aquarius (Doug Ray and Joe Ciolli)
Stanford Theater Section by Elyse Cummins and Erik Lorig
The Stanford Theater is run as a non-profit organization (Photo: Erik Lorig)
A University Ave. landmark since 1925, The Stanford Theater is a remnant of the past in a technologically-driven town. While many theatres like AMC and Regal harness the profit-driven movie business, the Stanford Theatre provides a safe haven for movie classics that could otherwise be housed by a museum.
The historic facade and Egyptian-themed interior of the one-screen theater exist in their original form. People strolling the avenue have the opportunity to see original film posters in the windows outside and can then purchase a ticket at the single seated box office window.
Notice the intricately designed tiles on the floor, or the elaborately painted walls highlighted by chandeliers. At the low priced concessions stand, popcorn and beverages are priced lower than the tickets. Before the projectors start rolling, the theatre provides an organ prelude for the audience. After the music stops, the curtain opens and the silver screen stars come back to life.
Built in 1925, the movie house was close to being shut down after profits took a nosedive. It was only the generosity of David Packard in 1987 that saved the theater. The cinema retains its nostalgic roots. Movies from the 1940s, to the 1960s are showcased here.
The Stanford Theater still makes no profit from its movie tickets or concession stands. In fact, in the age of $8 dollars for a large popcorn and $6 for a large soda, it is refreshing that the theater still charges only $7 for a ticket and $2 for a medium sized popcorn.
At the theater level, concessions are the biggest means of generating revenue (Elyse Cummins)
All of its money now goes to helping other older films get restored. The employee said, “All the money that this theater makes goes toward restoring [film] prints.” An online history of the theater, the Palo Alto History Project, reiterates the film profits now go to restoring old film prints on highly flammable nitrate stock, which they say can run upwards of $10,000 dollars a film.
Listen to the perspective of the Stanford Theater box office attendant (Erik Lorig, Elyse Cummins and Joe Ciolli)
The box office employee said that through the generosity of Packard and the Stanford Film Preservation Society working with the Library of Congress and UCLA. “These film prints that are authentic from the golden age of cinema [are being] restored.”
But just because it plays old films, it would be a mistake to claim the theater is strictly for those old enough to have been alive during the film’s original theatrical release. Packard was quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle that he resented the implication that seniors made up most of the audience. He said that in one weekend only 140 tickets of 928 were sold to seniors.
The Stanford Theater has become a beacon of cinematic history. With its historic facade standing proud on a street dominated with the new, sleek stores and Tesla Roadsters lining both sides of the tree shaded sidewalk, the theater looks to stick around for a long time. In a town constantly looking for the next new thing, the theater stands as a homage to the past.
The rise of ‘multiplex’ theaters has forced many smaller theaters to close. This map includes the locations of all theaters that have existed in the Peninsula (Doug Ray)