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Tracking the Cantor Index Spread

By Reagen Sulewski

December 13, 2001




Ocean's Eleven gave its all last weekend, but wasn't enough to achieve the high expectations placed on it by the Cantor spread. It earned $38.1 million to easily capture top spot for the weekend and to also become only the second film this year to earn between $30 and 40 million on opening weekend. However, the spread was in the low to mid 40s of millions, so the short bet paid off handsomely. The £50 I placed short on it at $43 million dollars paid off for five points of profit, earning me £250.

The question now is how will the film perform through four full weeks? The perceived trend in the past couple of years has been for films to open fast and make their money quickly and then get out of the way for the next crop of films. This doesn't show when you look at the entire range of films but becomes clearer when you narrow your focus. For films that start out strong (over $20 million), their average take for four weeks relative to opening weekend (for brevity, I'll use the term 'multiplier' here) has decreased sharply, from over 3 to under 2.9. That may not seem major, but for a $40 million dollar opener, that's $4 million just for 0.1 'points'. That of course is just the average, and films that aren't tremendously received in this range can often die very quickly (i.e. Planet of the Apes, Pearl Harbor).

The wild card in the case of Ocean's Eleven is the film's December release, which puts it right in the mix of the prime holiday season. December is the month that year after year has the leggiest films, and it's not due to any sort inherent quality of the films (although it doesn't hurt if they're well received). The seven-day period from Christmas Day to New Year's Day (and sometimes extended by a few days depending on the calendar) is the high tide that lifts nearly all boats, as families, school children, and pretty much everyone else has a lot of time on their hands, and head to the theaters for distraction. It's like a week of Saturdays, to make another analogy. It's not unusual for films released on near Christmas to make upwards of five times their opening weekend, and multipliers of over seven are not unprecedented (if still rare). Films like Mouse Hunt, Galaxy Quest and (perhaps the classic example) Grumpy Old Men have turned from flops to modest hits in this environment. These of course were films that had more room to move upwards, but as last year showed, even large hits like What Women Want and Cast Away were able to take advantage of this trend. There is little doubt that Ocean's Eleven will take advantage as well, but to what degree? As the reigning December champ (at least for now) this will obviously put the theory to the test. Currently, the spread for four weeks sits at $121-125 million (after dropping from the low 130s), or 3.17-3.25 times opening weekend. Even a nightmare scenario puts this one at at least 3.5 for me, or around $135 million, so I see no reason not to bet to the maximum long.

Late last week (and after I submitted my column), lines for Lord of the Rings came out. A hard drive crash and a move kept me from writing an update and unfortunately, I missed out on a lot of early action on these lines. The North American lines opened at $70-73 million for the first weekend and a massive $284-290 million for four weeks. The UK line started at £7.6-7.8 million (at the time of writing there is no line currently showing for this on the site). The US lines quickly dropped, and now sit at $66-69 million for the weekend, and $262-268 million for four weeks. Despite my own particular enthusiasm for the film, I still think that the opening line is too high, even in the wake of Harry Potter. With early word putting Fellowship of the Rings in 3,000 theaters and 5,000 individual screens, it's starting off with a much smaller juggernaut than Potter did. My personal expectation is that $70 million is an absolute maximum for opening weekend. Since it's opening on a Wednesday, this should take a large portion of the 'early adopters' away from the weekend. Doubtless many will come back for second helpings, but the majority will not. This should be a similar situation to The Phantom Menace, which dropped dramatically from its first day. I think it's entirely probable for the opening weekend to end up in the mid-50s. My bet here is the maximum £100, short.

Also seeing a maximum bet short is the four-week total, as only a large leap of faith by Cantor on the legs of the film through the Christmas season would put it above the current line based on what I'm calling for with its open. I don't anticipate weak legs for the film, but what I said above about Ocean's Eleven goes double for this film. Can any film really bring out enough people for seven straight days? It's the difference between a sprinter and a marathoner; it's much easier for a marathoner to pick up his pace for short while than someone who's already going at full tilt. I sincerely expect to be reversing this position quickly after opening weekend.

Betting History - Settled Bets
Date
Film
Bet Type
Amount
Position
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
Notes
12/5/01Ocean's 11Weekend£25Short$43-45 million$38 million5 points profit. Settlement value of £300.

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.
12/11/01Ocean's 11Four Week£100Long$121-125 million$121-125 million--
12/11/01Lord of the RingsWeekend£100Short$66-69 million$66-69 million--
12/11/01Lord of the RingsFour Week£100Short$262-268 million$262-268 million--

Assets and Bets
Initial stake: £500
Cash on Hand: £5,900
Amount in Bets: £350
Unrealized Profits and Losses: (£150)


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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