The Morning Jolt

National Security & Defense

The Growing North Korea Crisis

Happy Labor Day. Today’s Jolt is a bit truncated: Here’s an update on North Korea and Hollywood.

North Korea Detonates Nuclear Weapon; Mattis and Trump Respond

News out of North Korea, as the nation tests a new nuclear weapon:

The crisis with North Korea escalated Sunday as President Trump reviewed military options and suggested sweeping new economic sanctions in response to the crossing of a dangerous threshold by the isolated nation in detonating its most powerful nuclear weapon ever.

Defying Trump’s blunt warnings, North Korea claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States.

Though not yet confirmed, Pyongyang’s apparent show of force was extraordinary — the hydrogen weapon is vastly more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and drew swift condemnation in capitals around the globe. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the action “absolutely unacceptable.”

President Trump signaled to reporters that the U.S. has not ruled out retaliating against North Korea. When asked after leaving St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., Sunday morning how the U.S. planned to respond, the president answered, “We’ll see.”

As we’ve come to learn, “we’ll see” is Trump-speak for “I’m not going into details with you, but we’re leaving all options open.” Defense Secretary James Mattis gave a more definitive answer at a press conference outside the White House yesterday, warning of “a massive military response” to a threat against the U.S. or its allies.

A Flop of a Summer

NRO’s Kyle Smith writes about the dreadful summer Hollywood’s been having:

“This film’s not perfect!” could have been the tagline for any number of films released this horrendous summer. Sales were the weakest since 2006, off a huge 16 percent from last summer. From the big-screen adaptation of Baywatch that no one was waiting for to chapter eleventy-five of Pirates of the Caribbean and the umpteenth Transformers movie, it has been the Summer of Flops. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword cost something like $175 million but earned $39 million in North America. Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets cost about the same and took in about the same. The Emoji Movie piled up only $78 million. Alien: Covenant drew $77 million. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower didn’t even make it to $50 million. The Mummy, an ambitious effort from Universal to launch a new universe of interlocking horror titles, earned only $80 million and seems likely to be remembered mainly for the unintentionally hilarious performance by Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The only movies that made any money the entire summer were Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3, and, on a smaller scale, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, and Girls Trip. Even Pixar stumbled with its second-lowest-grossing effort among its 18 releases, Cars 3. Half a dozen hits can’t make up for the losses racked up by dozens of flops. Nor does the fall look particularly promising.

High-profile releases in the next few weeks, such as Stephen King’s It, hope to give the movie industry a late-season boost in ticket sales, but these won’t help turn Hollywood around.

When the movie industry has had market lulls in the past, they have often looked to new sources of revenue or new demographics to pull in. Videocasettes, DVDs, and the Chinese market come to mind. But Hollywood doesn’t seem to have any new ideas or gimmicks, and with people leaving their houses less often, it seems the movie business is in trouble. As Smith quotes from an August headline, it’s “‘time to panic.’”

ADDENDA: For those of you missing Jim’s Twin Peaks updates, here’s one from NRO.

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