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Tracking the Cantor Index Spread

By Reagen Sulewski

January 9, 2001




Ocean's 11 appeared to fool a large majority of Cantor bettors throughout its four week run as the buy side of the spread fell to as low as $118 million right before the Christmas weekend. As it happened, it was easily the number two film of the Christmas season. Those that shorted and didn't anticipate the Christmas increase in business -- well, you can't say I didn't warn you. A better than average (especially lately) drop off over the weekend of the 21st combined with an increase over the weekend of the 28th propelled it to just shy of $141 million in 28 days. Included in this total is an impressive $16 million inter-week total, from the 24th to the 27th.

For my fund, this means an impressive gain for the two bets I had placed prior to Christmas; I can't help but notice how much better that gain would have been were I better able to time the dip of the spread. By missing the bottom out at $118 (or even $120, which it hit much earlier and stayed at for a longer period) I effectively gave up £1800 over my two bets. Not exactly chump change. This just goes to illustrate that to succeed in this exercise, you need to not only be accurate, but accurate at the right time. Even considering this, I still did very well on this film. On two £100 bets, I made a cumulative 28 points for a profit of £2800.

I'm going to be giving some of this right back though, as I misjudged the opening weekend performance of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring wildly. A $60 million + weekend never did materialize with $47 million being the most it could muster. It would be easy to blame front-loading for the film's failure to reach this mark, combined with a Wednesday opening drawing away hard core fans away from opening weekend. That is, of course, unless you look at the staying power the film is managing. Even with the Christmas bonanza effect, $10 million days are very difficult to maintain for any extended period. In Lord of the Rings' case, 11 of its first 14 days were over $10 million (with a twelfth just missing), something no other film has ever managed. I think it would be far more accurate to say that the initial audience drawn in was smaller than many pundits expected and word of mouth helped to keep the film going. Certainly its total box office (currently sitting at $207 million) makes an impressive point. Unfortunately for my bets, this wasn't enough to make them profitable. I placed a long bet in anticipation of just such a run, but based it on such a high opening number that it was near impossible for the film to recover to the mark of approximately $265 million needed. Instead, it's going to finish its 28th day (next Tuesday) at about $236 million. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend gives another small boost in its finishing kick, at least as far as Cantor goes. It's unclear what effect the AFI Best Picture win will have, as it is the first year of that award's existence. Golden Globe wins for best picture typically have not kicked in much extra business immediately; they're much more useful for helping to add to re-release campaigns. In any event, there is no point in selling out my long position on the film's four week total since this would only lose me more money, more quickly. I can't help but kick myself over these two boneheaded moves as the net result for the fund over the Christmas period is minus £500 or so.

The anglo-centric nature of Lord of the Rings brought out great numbers to the UK opening weekend, under the same circumstances (Wednesday opening). Relatively, much greater than in the U.S., with £7.3 million worth of business. Had it done relatively the same business there as in North America, it would have taken in (by my estimation) about £6.0 million. That it did so in a week where many films dropped as much as 50% (typical of the UK) is testimony to the power of a dedicated audience. I only gain two points and £100 off this bet.

Given Cantor's recent shift to focusing on only very large profile films, it seems as though this may be the last update for several weeks, unless I am surprised by a Black Hawk Down line, or something similar for an Oscar expanding film. The year's lineup, as has been usual for the last few years, looks relatively dismal as far as big box office grossers go.

Betting History - Settled Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
12/11/01Ocean's 11Four Week£100Long$121-125 million$141 million16 point profit at bet settlement. Total settlement value of £1700.
12/19/01Ocean's 11Four Week£100Long$124-129 million$141 million12 point profit and bet settlement. Total settlement value of £1300.
12/19/01Lord of the RingsWeekend£50Long$59-61 million$47 million14 point loss at settlement. £650 subtracted from cash. Bet surrendered.
12/19/01Lord of the Rings (UK)Weekend£50Short£7.5-7.8 million£7.3 million2 point profit at settlement. Total settlement value of £150.

Betting History - Active Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
12/19/01Lord of the RingsFour week£100Long$256-262 million$229-235 millionRange of loss expected to be 25 to 30 points.

Assets and Bets
Initial stake: £500
Cash on Hand: £10,150
Amount in Bets: £100
Unrealized Profits and Losses: (£3,000)


The information in this article is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation in making any specific investment or betting decisions. Nothing in this article is intended to encourage or facilitate any activity that is prohibited by the laws of any governmental authority.


     


 
 

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