Friday, April 2, 2010

The Futures of Hollywood

A sample of movie futures soon to be on offer from the Cantor Exchange.
The Hollywood Stock Exchange has been around for 15 years.  It's a game where players bet on the "securities" of Hollywood properties, including make-believe stocks, bonds, and even derivatives.  In a truth-stranger-than-fiction move, Cantor-Fitzgerald, a Wall Street investment brokerage and consultancy, bought the HSX.  And now they are hoping to make reality out of fiction.

On April 20, 2010, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) expects to tell Cantor whether they will allow the new company, called the Cantor Exchange, to actually trade movie titles as securities (specifically, as futures).  This means we'll all be able to bet, literally, on whether a movie will make money or not.

This is an interesting twist on the "internal prediction markets" that are happening at companies like Google, who run an exchange to bet on the delivery dates and health of a particular project or product.  Movie returns have always been wildly unpredictable, so it will be interesting to see if commercializing our predictions adds any accuracy, and really makes anyone money (other than the Cantor Exchange, which takes a cut of every transaction), or, if William Goldman was right when he famously said, "Nobody knows anything."

If, like me, you predicted that Hot Tub Time Machine would have stunk up the box office, well, you probably would have lost your retirement fund.  Who knew?

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