Money Minute: July 4th a Dud for Hollywood Box Office

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If you went to see a movie this weekend, it might have felt a little lonely.

The July Fourth weekend was a dud for Hollywood. According to industry-tracker Rentrak, box office receipts were down 44 percent from a year ago. Part of the problem is timing. The No. 1 flick, "Transformers: Age of Extinction," was released a week before the holiday weekend and it made the bulk of its money in that first week. Some other films had their debuts on the Wednesday before Independence Day so their sales weren't counted in the weekend tally. Overall, the summer season has been a chilly one for Tinseltown. Sales are down almost 20 percent from last summer. That could be because there are so many TV series premiering this summer that are getting all the eyeballs.

AMC Entertainment's (AMC) strategy in attracting moviegoers is to offer quality over quantity. The company is investing millions of dollars in fully reclining seats that will take up more space in their theaters but give movie-lovers more incentive to leave the comfort of their couches. But you won't be able to kick back in markets like New York and Los Angeles that already attract a lot of cinephiles. The seats will only be available in less active markets. And you'll have about a year to enjoy the seats before ticket prices rise to cover the costs.

Things are heating up on the small screen. Movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein known for producing independent films that go on to win Oscars like "Shakespeare in Love" "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" has done so well with his TV endeavors -- he produces "Project Runway" and others -- that he now reportedly is looking to spin off his TV division into a separate company that might even go public. The Weinstein Co. is reportedly looking to team up with a digital outlet like Netflix (NFLX), (AMZN), Google (GOOG) or Yahoo (YHOO) to create original content. It's exciting times for fans of edgy and arty episodic fare.

Here on Wall Street last week it was a shortened trading week because of July 4thbut there was much to celebrate. A strong jobs report pushed the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) past the 17,000 mark for the first time. The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) was up 2.4 percent on the week while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 1.4 percent.

The stock market has been on a tear for 5 years now, which is making many question when the bull run is going to lose steam. The next big market driver is expected to be second quarter earnings and analysts are feeling pretty optimistic about the outcome. Those polled by Reuters expect earnings to grow by 6.2 percent in the period, that's better than the 5.6 percent in the first quarter, and then by double digits in the third and fourth quarters. We'll get a sense of where things are headed pretty soon. Earnings season starts Tuesday when Alcoa (AA) releases its results.

-Produced by Karina Huber.

8 Ways Watching Too Much TV Is Costing You Thousands
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Money Minute: July 4th a Dud for Hollywood Box Office
Cable and satellite TV can run you a pretty penny -- especially if you fall prey to companies' cleverly crafted package deals. You really adore the programming on Channel XYZ, but you can only get it if you upgrade to the higher-tier package, which is an extra $20 a month and has dozens of channels you never look at. Found another provider who offers a better deal? Get ready to be socked with early termination fees by your current provider -- and for your new provider's fantastic deal to run out once you're not a new customer anymore.
The average American watches five hours of TV a day -- 1,825 hours a year. Think of all the other things you could be doing with that time to earn extra money. You could get a second job, start your own business, go back to school, or improve your skill set so you can qualify for a higher-paying job.
Excessive TV watching has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and even a shorter lifespan. And the cost of treating a long-term health issue is rarely cheap -- in terms of money or happiness.
Kids aren't the only ones susceptible to the "I want it!" syndrome caused by too much TV advertising. No matter how savvy and impenetrable to marketing you think you are, companies invest millions of dollars in television ads for a reason -- because they work. Being pelted with tempting commercials for products and services takes its toll on your money mindset. It's easy to fall into the consumer trap when you're constantly being shown shiny new things guaranteed to make your life better.
Do you love watching the glamorous lifestyles on "Real Housewives"? Drool over the spacious properties on "House Hunters?" TV is a form of voyeurism that allows us to peek into the lifestyles of those richer and more famous -- and it can leave us dissatisfied with what we have because we get so used to seeing those who have more. This can result in us making purchases we can't really afford because we're trying to keep up with those televised Joneses.
In a similar vein, TV can make us feel dissatisfied with our  appearance. Compared to the gorgeous, flawless people we see on shows and commercials, it's easy to find 101 ways our looks don't add up. Seeing nothing but an idealized standard of beauty on screen can drive us to spend tons to try to make our own appearances match, from jumping on the latest fashion bandwagon, buying whatever cream is the new hot development, or even springing for surgery to physically remake ourselves.
Snacking and TV watching often go hand in hand, and when your attention is focused on a show, it can be easy to down a whole bag of chips before you realize what you're doing. Combine that with the fact that TV watching is a sedentary activity, and you've got the makings for a much bigger cost than just that bag of chips. (See No. 3.)
While TV engages our attention, it doesn't engage our brains, at least not the way that reading, continuing education and real-life problem-solving does. It's a largely passive form of entertainment that can leave us feeling lazy, sluggish and unfocused. And that lack of mental energy can take a toll when it comes to things like our job performance, our drive to start that new business, or our willingness to get out and network our way to our next great job.
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