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Tracking the Cantor Index Spread

By Reagen Sulewski

December 6, 2001




Ocean's Eleven is the big money action this weekend, with Monsters, Inc. gone and Potter stumbling to the end of its four weeks. Stephen Soderbergh's remake of the notorious 60s Rat Pack film arrives in theaters on Friday and will, barring a monumental surprise, take first spot for the weekend. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a runaway hit, as Harry Potter, the current number one, will probably end up in the teens. The biggest question here is whether this non-action, non-FX driven crime thriller can vault into the realm of the mega-openings that have been in evidence this year. The line demarcating the difference between the haves and the have-nots has never been so sharp as this year, with 12 films opening over $40 million, and only one in between $30 and 40 million (and just barely at that). To further create a divide, nine of the top ten openings this year were either sequels, remakes or had a strong built-in audience or marketing connection, such as a book or video game (Pearl Harbor being the odd man out). More and more, it seems that the only way to secure a super start is to give audiences something they've already seen, which is what makes Ocean's Eleven such an interesting call. The line currently sits at $43-45 million for the opening weekend and meeting it would put it squarely in the previously mentioned group of strongly received repeat concepts. Is the original movie really that well known and remembered? Additionally, a hook hasn't been completely a sure thing this year, as films like Dr. Dolittle 2 and Scary Movie 2 both opened in the 20s and fizzled out.

Of course, there is the old fashioned way to advertise your movie to the top, put a big star in and buy up all the ad time you can. The reasoning then goes, if one star is good, two must be better. Soderbergh has gone even further, with four A-list stars in Clooney, Pitt, Roberts and Damon. Roberts is likely the key to this grouping, as recent history has shown that her presence gives at least a $20 million baseline to build a film on. George Clooney has been selective with his projects since Batman & Robin and while not always hitting a home run, has avoided the career killing moves that would have thrown him into David Caruso land had he not been perfect (he really only had one mistake left to make). Brad Pitt's star has meandered somewhat (Snatch didn't knock out the lights, The Mexican ought to have done better, but Spy Game did reasonably well) and Matt Damon has been low key, wisely, in my opinion, avoiding overexposure in the years following Good Will Hunting and Saving Private Ryan. There is obviously not a cumulative effect here with their star power, but the overall intent is to push the fence sitters into the theater.

This type of film is really problematic for me as a pundit, as it's difficult to stand away from 'insider' status and figure out how people who don't follow releases so closely perceive this film, or even if they do. I think that in this case, the awareness of the film's concept and remake status, combined with the exceptional cast and Steven Soderbergh directing (one of the few directors people will recognize right now) give it an unusual awareness in the general public that might give that necessary jump. On the other hand, the advertising has been fairly flat, resembling nothing so much as the spots for Out of Sight, which, while an excellent film, hardly blew the doors off the box office. In trying to sell the smooth and the cool, I don't think they really grab Joe Attention Deficit Disorder, and that might be the glass ceiling that keeps it from really performing until word of mouth starts to congeal. It'll be tough for it to break that mark, so I'm going to place £50 short on its opening weekend. After all, how can I not bet something on a film about Vegas?

The four-week bet is much more troublesome to judge, as normally a short on the weekend goes hand in hand with a short on the four-week, but we also have word of mouth and December legs to consider. I think it's a bit early to consider this a candidate for long holiday legs (and we don't even know what type of reception the film is going to get), but the possibility is still there and this is definitely a situation where you don't to get caught on the wrong side for even a brief period. I had even considering buying the long, but if the film comes in at my basement expectation of around $30 million, I don't think the legs would even bring it back up to the $123-128 million spread that it's at right now. Potter and Monsters may have spoiled us, but $125 million is still a lot for a film to make in just four weeks. This wager will have to wait until after the weekend.

Monsters, Inc. completed its four week run at $194.92 million, or $195 for Cantor's purposes. This is exactly in the middle of my expected range from last week, so I gained a couple points off those lines as opposed to cutting and running. The two combined bets of £125 turn into £1050 after all is completed.

A nicely timed short of Harry Potter last week paid off well, as an approximately 60% drop from Thanksgiving weekend dropped the line almost 30 points to $241-246 million. The day after last week's column was published, the line actually dropped enough so that there was a two point profit available by rebuying, however, I wisely avoided that tiny profit and came out with a bigger score. The current line is tempting as a free falling Potter could drag its total even further below the bottom end of $241 million, however, it appears that it will be able to just exceed that mark. It definitely bears watching though.

Betting History - Settled Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
11/8/01Monsters, Inc.Four Week£25Long$173-178 million$195 millionSettled on 12/4/01 for 17 point profit. Settlement value of £450.
11/22/01Monsters, Inc.Four Week£100Long$185-190 million$195 millionSettled on 12/4/01 for 5 point profit. Settlement value of £600.

Betting History - Active Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
11/28/01Harry PotterFour Week£50Short$269-274 million$241-246 million23 point unrealized profit. Expected settlement at $241-243 million.
12/5/01Ocean's 11Weekend£50Short$43-45 million$43-45 million--

Assets and Bets
Initial stake: £500
Cash on Hand: £5,900
Amount in Bets: £100
Unrealized Profits and Losses: £1025


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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