Oil keeps dropping: Prices fell below $124 a barrel this morning and some market watchers are talking about $120 by the end of the week – 15 bucks lower than the record high. Continued drops in consumption, both in the U.S. and overseas, appear to be having some effect. But none of this means that gasoline prices will start to tank. Analysts warn that pump prices usually decline more slowly than they increase. The more likely scenario is for prices to flatten or perhaps fall just a bit. (Bloomberg, LAT)
Beware of fuel-savers: Those gadgets that promise to improve your fuel economy don't really work, warn the experts. In fact, government tests found that some of these products can actually harm performance. From the WSJ:
John Signorotti was looking for a quick, simple way to improve the fuel economy of his 2004 Toyota pickup truck. For about $70, he bought the TornadoFuelSaver, a small, fan-like device that swirls air into the engine in an effort to improve fuel combustion. "It didn't work," says the California financial adviser. "I tested it and then returned it for a full refund." He says local mechanics told him any swirling effect would dissipate by the time the air mixed with the fuel and entered the engine. But he says he did have some luck with a device called a throttle-body spacer, which swirled the air and fuel mixture closer to the engine. He says it boosted his fuel economy by about 10%. The maker of the Tornado product, now called CycloneFuelSaver, couldn't be reached to comment.
Ed McMahon defaults: Both the WSJ and LAT are making a big deal over the former Johnny Carson sidekick fighting to avoid foreclosure on his multimillion-dollar Beverly Hills estate. McMahon apparently broke his neck about 18 months ago and has been unable to work since. But wait a second: Why would an 85-year-old guy still have to work in order to pay off a mortgage? It sounds like this is less about the bad housing market and more about his financial problems - the cause of foreclosures in good times and bad.
No more Ted; United is shutting down the low-cost carrier as part of several budget-cutting moves announced this morning. The airline - it took its name from the last three letters of United - had flown out of both LAX and Ontario. It was seen as competing with Southwest and Frontier, but the sub-brand never really took off. High fuel costs have caused United to cut its fleet. (Bloomberg)
May box office holds up: Through Memorial Day, revenues totaled $780 million, which is well under last year's $855.2 million. But last year had blockbuster installments of "Spider-Man," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Shrek," so comparisons are difficult. This year's May box office did come in ahead of 2006 and 2005. From Variety:
That's not to say there haven't been disappointments or bumps in the road. Warner's expensive gamble on the Wachowski brothers' foray into the family film biz didn't pay off, as "Speed Racer" failed to muster much speed at either the domestic or international box office. Produced by Joel Silver, pic has grossed $40.9 million domestically and $33.8 million internationally to date. Disney sequel "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" wasn't able to match the opening number of the first "Narnia" pic ($62 million) when debuting to $55 million on May 16, but the movie was still the third-highest grossing film in May through Memorial Day behind "Iron Man" and "Crystal Skull."
More SAG waivers: Roughly 300 deals have been made between producers and the Screen Actors Guild that will allow features to continue shooting after June 30 if there's an actors strike. The producers are agreeing to adhere to whatever contract SAG and the big media companies come up with. Meanwhile, contract talks will resume today, the 23rd day of talks. From Variety:
The prevailing sense among studio toppers is that a strike's unlikely, and a few projects currently shooting -- "Transformers 2," "Terminator Salvation," Eddie Murphy starrer "A Thousand Words" -- have a built-in hiatus so shutting down won't be costly. Several other tentpoles -- Roland Emmerich's "2012," Sony's "Da Vinci Code" sequel "Angels and Demons," Disney's "Prince of Persia" and Universal's "Nottingham" -- are set for late summer on the presumption there won't be a strike.
From cheesecake to burgers: Russ Bendel, who resigned last week as president and COO of Calabasas Hills-based Cheesecake Factory, has been named CEO of Habit Burger Grill, a quick casual chain based in Santa Barbara. The Habit started as a lone burger stand in Goleta, and now it has 30 stores. They're shooting for 120 over the next five years. (OC Register)