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"The Interview" makes history

Mon, 2014-12-29 06:53

“The Interview” seems like an unlikely film to be making history.  The screwball comedy is about a plot to kill the leader of North Korea.

But “The Interview” is reportedly Sony Pictures’ biggest-grossing online release ever.  The latest figures on how much consumers spent to download the film?  More than $15 million, and counting.  “The Interview” is giving a healthy nudge to a trend away from movie theaters.

“I don’t think a lot of people necessarily want to go to their suburban megaplex anymore and drop 12 bucks for a box of popcorn or whatever they charge these days,” says Dan Kennedy, who teaches journalism at Northeastern University.

It’s not clear how Sony shares the cash from “The Interview” with its online distributors.  But it usually splits ticket sales with theaters, 50, 50.   

Kennedy  doesn’t think the studios are cheering the demise of the multiplex.  He says if theaters go extinct, there will be one less distribution channel for films. 

But he says theaters could revive themselves with extras, like special audio effects, that would make going out to the movies a more high-end experience.

Quiz: Higher ed’s biggest losers

Mon, 2014-12-29 04:33

Enrollment at two and four-year colleges declined 1.3 percent between Fall 2013 and 2014, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

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Walgreens poised to get bigger and go global

Mon, 2014-12-29 02:00

Walgreens – the biggest drugstore chain in the U.S. – is poised to become the biggest drugstore chain on the planet. Shareholders approved the final stage of a merger with European drugstore chain Alliance Boots by a 97 percent margin at a company shareholder meeting Monday morning.

All told, the merger is worth more than $21 billion. In a 2012 deal, Walgreens acquired 45 percent of Alliance Boots. The remaining 55 percent tranche of the deal went forward in mid-2014, and following shareholder approval, it will close Wednesday. Executives from Alliance Boots will be in significant leadership positions in the merged company.

Alliance Boots has more than 4,500 stores across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Walgreens has more than 8,000 stores in the U.S. But, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger of the Strategic Resource Group, Walgreens has weaker discount-programs and worse-performing stores than its rivals, and it has lost ground in the domestic market.

“This merger really allows Walgreens-Alliance Boots to pole vault past CVS or anyone else in global competition,” says Flickinger.

Meanwhile, Walgreens could benefit from some of Boots’ higher-end European offerings, says John Palizza, a retired business professor and former Walgreens executive who owns shares in the company.

“Some of Boots' private-label is very high quality,” says Palizza. “Here in the U.S., when you see private label you typically to think, ‘Well, this is second tier.’”

Selling more premium store-brands could help Walgreens, says Palizza, since it’s the items that fill the aisles in the front of the store – groceries, household supplies, health-and-beauty products – that increasingly drive drugstore profits.

Walgreens to get bigger and go global

Mon, 2014-12-29 02:00

Walgreens—the biggest drugstore chain in the U.S.—is poised to become the biggest drugstore chain on the planet. Shareholders approved the final stage of a merger with European drugstore chain Alliance Boots by a 97 percent margin at a company shareholder meeting Monday morning.

All told, the merger is worth more than $21 billion. In a 2012 deal, Walgreens acquired 45 percent of Alliance Boots. The remaining 55 percent tranche of the deal went forward in mid-2014, and following shareholder approval, it will close on December 31. Executives from Alliance Boots will be in significant leadership positions in the merged company.

Alliance Boots has more than 4,500 stores across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Walgreens has more than 8,000 stores in the U.S. But, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger of the Strategic Resource Group, Walgreens has weaker discount-programs and worse-performing stores than its rivals and it has lost ground in the domestic market.

“This merger really allows Walgreens-Alliance Boots to pole vault past CVS or anyone else in global competition,” says Flickinger.

Meanwhile, Walgreens could benefit from some of Boots’ higher-end European offerings, says John Palizza, a retired business professor and former Walgreens executive who still owns shares in the company.

“Some of Boots' private-label is very high quality,” says Palizza. “Here in the U.S., when you see private label you typically to think, ‘Well, this is second tier.’”

Selling more premium store-brands could help Walgreens, says Palizza, since it’s the items that fill the aisles in the front of the store—groceries, household supplies, health-and-beauty products—that increasingly drive drugstore profits.

Staying ahead of the curve on cyberthreats

Mon, 2014-12-29 02:00

When hackers are increasingly organized and effective, what can a government do to protect citizens? Investing in open security architecture may be one option.

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