The Blockbuster Bubble? Wall Street Looks to Gamble on Hollywood

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

The Blockbuster Bubble? Wall Street Looks to Gamble on Hollywood

US Authorities Give Green Light to Box Office Futures Market

by
Ben Child

Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko ... Hollywood fears Wall Street involvement may hurt performance of films. (Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive)

With Oliver Stone's Wall Street 2 placing financial trading back in
Hollywood's crosshairs, it is perhaps fitting that the film industry is itself set to
become a target for the money men. The US authorities yesterday approved
the creation of the first futures market based on movie box office results, a move
that has aroused fear among the studios about traders speculating on the financial success of films.

The
new market was approved by the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The
Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA), which represents the
major studios, has long opposed such a move, arguing that it may hurt
the performance of films as traders begin looking for ways to manipulate
a movie's opening. It has called for a ban on such practices.

In
a statement, the MPAA said movie futures speculation was "no more than
over-under bets on a movie's performance". They added: "It is
unfortunate the CFTC has now given the go-ahead to a new gambling
platform that could be plagued by financial irregularities and
manipulation."

However, proponent Robert Swagger told the
Hollywood Reporter that the MPAA was trying to suppress small business
initiatives at a time of economic troubles.

"We know the
MPAA will stop at nothing," he said. "They are a huge special interest
group. They don't have to use this product, but there are a lot of other
people who can and who will benefit from it.

"The MPAA
can't accept the fact that the regulatory body, the CFTC, has read
through everything, that we worked with them for over a year, and they
concluded these products do fall under their domain – that they can't be
manipulated, that they are a commodity."

The new futures
contracts will commence trading four weeks before a movie opens and end
trading as it enters its opening weekend. The first movie to enter the
market may be crime thriller Takers, which arrives in US cinemas on 20
August.

Futures markets were initially set up to allow
traders to "hedge" against the possible future performances of
companies, a move which helped to reduce uncomfortable spikes in
economic results.

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