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Tracking the Cantor Index Spread

By Reagen Sulewski

November 8, 2001




The blockbusters giveth and the blockbusters taketh away. Monsters, Inc. made the amazing total of $62.5 million last weekend, a total about as far from my mid-40's prediction as I could have imagined. Luckily, we're not penalized by Cantor for how far our predictions are off, just how far we are off their line. In this case, my short sell was placed at $54 million and with the settlement at $62.5 million, that leaves an 8.5 point shortfall. Painful, but not fatal. On a £50 bet, this results in a loss of £375 from my cash reserves. It's hard to get too broken up about this when you consider that the only reason I can place bets that high is due to the fact that I made so much money earlier in the summer off Planet of the Apes and Rush Hour 2.

The four-week bet also takes a hit, as I also bet short on that, hoping for a quick shift down and a turnaround long. The turnaround will happen, but at a loss; though not quite as large of one as could have been expected from such a large opening weekend. The line has moved from $170-175 million to only $173-178 million; I assume that this represents fear that Harry Potter will kill the film's chances for legs and that it will fall short of any legs that it might have. Here are my thoughts on this; MI will have two weeks to establish itself free of this competition, which, when you consider that these will be its highest box office weekends becomes that much more crucial. Response to the film itself has been fantastic; criticism of the film is limited mostly to the thought that "maybe it's not quite as good as Toy Story 2," a difficult bar for any film to reach, really. Its fourth weekend will be American Thanksgiving weekend, the most family film friendly weekend of the year. Competition isn't a factor that weekend since people have the time to get to as many films as they want (and often take advantage of this) over the five days of the holiday. Finally, I tend to think that competition is overrated as a factor. This will be perhaps the best test yet as to whether it does have a sizable effect when both films are quality and have high demand. As the line stands now, it is calling for a four-week total of approximately 2.77-2.85 times the opening weekend total, below average in the first place, not even considering the great word of mouth this film has. So, after taking my lumps with the eight-point deficit between shorting and rebuying, I'm going to put £20 down long on the four-weekend total.

The line on The Others UK box office opening turned out to be very accurate; too accurate for any profit anywhere. The buy-in was at £1.9 million for the weekend, which is exactly what the film ended up earning. No profit, no loss and my £50 comes back to me.

Now for the line for which many have been waiting for months; Harry Potter. It would be difficult to find a film with a higher range of estimates than this one (at least until December) with the full spectrum going from around $50 to 85 million and beyond. It's difficult to get a proper perspective on these kinds of numbers and making an accurate assessment of the line becomes problematic. We do still have another full week to go before the chips all have to laid down, so I'll defer on any kind of detailed analysis till then. I will say that it's going to be awfully hard for Potter to reach the lofty line of $81-83 million set out by Cantor; everything is going to have to go right for it to reach that number. For pretty much this reason, I'm going to lay a caretaker bet of £15 short on its opening weekend, with plenty of time to rethink it. The four-week bet is another story; sitting at $220-225 million, this could be ripe for the picking on the long side. Potter's second weekend is Thanksgiving, which as I mentioned before is the most family friendly weekend out there. It's a strategy that has developed into quite the money making scheme for blockbuster films; earlier this year, Shrek took advantage of its pre-Memorial Day weekend opening to catapult itself to a $250 million plus total. Last year, The Grinch opened to about $55 million pre-Thanksgiving and had almost zero drop over Turkey Day on its way to just under $200 million in four full weeks. I think that with the kind of numbers that are being talked about for Potter, $200 million could be a worst case scenario. As such, I'm going to put the maximum £100 down long.

Potter's UK box office also has a line, sitting currently at £10.6-11 million. This could prove to be a far trickier case, since while Harry Potter mania started and is still strongest in the UK, there are also going to be preview screenings this weekend there, which will not be included in the weekend box office. Word tells me that the previews are not the small affairs that typically occur in the US to promote a film (say 1/3 of the normal number of venues) but in every multiplex in the UK, nearly. Two comparison films here, Star Wars Episode I took in £9.5 million in its first weekend, and Toy Story 2 took in £7.7 million. This ends up being about as much of a leap over the record as for the US line. Leaps like this are of course possible; the current three day record holder, The Lost World boosted it by about 40% at the time.

This line in particular has seen a lot of early action and movement. It came in at £9.5 for a buy and before I was even able to write the column it's jumped up a full million and a half. I think that highly attended preview screening could help build hype in the UK, or at least among potential bettors and I'll place a small £10 bet long on this line.

Betting History - Settled Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
10/31/01Monsters, Inc.Weekend£50Short$54-56 million$62.5 million8.5 point loss. £375 cash loss at settlement.
10/31/01Monsters, Inc.Four Week£50Short$170-175 million$173-178 millionRepurchased long on 11/8/01 for 8 point loss. £350 cash loss.
10/31/01The OthersWeekend (UK)£50Long£1.7-1.9 million£1.9 millionSettled for 0 points. Original bet returned.

Betting History - Active Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
11/8/01Monsters, Inc.Four Week£20Long$173-178 million$173-178 million--
11/8/01Harry PotterWeekend£15Short$81-84 million$81-84 million--
11/8/01Harry PotterFour Week£100Long$220-225 million$220-225 million--
11/8/01Harry PotterWeekend£10Long£10.6-11 million£10.6-11 million--

Assets and Bets
Initial stake: £500
Cash on Hand: £2,067.50
Amount in Bets: £145
Unrealized Profits and Losses: (£695)


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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