Tracking the Cantor Index Spread:
Week Four

By Reagen Sulewski

August 16, 2001

After two incredibly profitable weeks betting on the Cantor spread, to break even seems like a huge letdown. Such is what I face after this weekend. American Pie 2 earned $45.1 million at the box office this weekend, leading to a cash-out at $45 million, exactly the point at which I went long on it. For this, I get my initial stake of £25 back, but nothing else. If you remember from last week's column, I had only been expecting a return of two or three points, so it's not a gigantic letdown. Cantor was bound to hit an opening film close eventually and kudos to them for hitting one this early. A tempting stance to take on ventures like this is to consider the opening of American Pie 2 a disappointment; the power of suggestion tends to influence Monday-morning quarterbacks in how they view a film. It's something akin to an appeal to authority; "they" (some perceived authority) say that a film has the potential to reach an amount. Hype builds to such a point that this amount can end up being perceived as a bottom level. When the film fails to reach this outlandish mark (often failing by only a small amount), disappointment sets in and something akin to a backlash occurs. The key here is to not overreact to any one film, as there are few consistent trends for movies, seeing as how widely in content and style that new films vary week to week.

I did, however, see some profit from the American Pie 2 four-weekend spread. It rose slightly from my buy price of $125 million to its current spread of $127-132 million. This represents a slightly lower-than-average four-week take, given its $45.1 million opening. I'm going to let this bet stand, as the two-point difference isn't really worth selling to me at this point. Word-of-mouth, while not superlative, is adequate in my opinion to push this one past the $132 million mark. The £25 returned from the weekend bet is rolled over into a new bet on the four-weekend total.

Recently, Cantor changed its payout scheme; this limits point gains or losses to 50 per bet. This effectively cuts off my gains on the Rush Hour 2 four-weekend bet, as it had passed through this 50-point barrier. This is probably a good move in the long run for Cantor, as bankrupting customers isn't good business, nor do they want to give away the farm. Point shifts greater than 50 should be quite rare, even though we have already had one in the short existence of movie spread-betting. So, instead of the extraordinary £1,005 unrealized gain I had obtained for Rush Hour 2, it is now capped at £750 (plus £15), still a very nice sum for a £15 bet. Since there's nothing more to gain from this bet, it makes sense to cash it out here and add it to my cash pile. I had also placed a second bet on the four-week total of Rush Hour 2 after the opening weekend. Purchased at $184 million, the sell price is now at $181 million, a slight loss were I to sell now. The buy price is at $186 million; with a 50% drop-off in its second weekend, initially things could look difficult for reaching this mark. However, the second weekend drop is generally not typical of further weekends, and I still expect it to perform well over the coming weeks. Daily numbers, while not typically predictive of weekend drop-offs, are strong; this can be a very strong contributor to the legs of summer films. I'll place £65 more on the four-week total on the buy side to make it an even £100 riding on this film.

My short position on Planet of the Apes is paying off well, with the spread having dropped from $172 million at the sell to $169 million at the buy. I am willing to wait this position out, as I am confident of a few points below that. This strategy of riding the four-week totals seems to be working well so far to make steady, if modest, profits. Another sell at the current price of $164 million is not attractive to me. Jurassic Park III is also set to close out its four-week bet, with four weeks including up to Tuesday's box office, since it opened on a Wednesday. Unofficially, I place it at $162.3 million, putting it smack in the middle of Cantor's spread.

While last week I initially went long on Captain Corelli's Mandolin, my expectations for the film have dimmed since then. I have heard rumors of a smallish screen count (approximately 1,500). It will only be a day or two before we know if this holds true, but for now I will take the risk. The spread for the opening weekend has risen slightly, from $10-12 million to $12-14 million. This allows me to sell without losing money on the spread. Now, I will sell again for £25 at $12 million to go short. Regardless of the opening weekend for this film, I'm not expecting particularly good legs. For this reason, I am also going short for £25 on the four-weekend total, hoping to capitalize on the double effect of a drop after its open plus poor legs on top of that. The flip side of this position should be evident; If CCM has an excellent weekend, my losses could be triple that for the weekend bet.

No new bets were placed on the Cantor Web site this week.

Betting History
Bet Type
Spread at Bet
Current Spread
8/1/01Rush Hour 2Four week£15Long$107-112million$181-186 million50 point spread maximum reached. Cashed out for £765 8/15/01.
8/8/01Planet of the ApesFour Week£25Short$172-177 million$164-169 million--
8/8/01Rush Hour 2Four Week£35Long$179-184 million$181-186 million--
8/8/01American Pie 2Weekend£25Long$43-45 million$45 million0 point difference on cash out. £25 bet returned to cash 8/15/01.
8/8/01American Pie 2Four Week£25Long$120-125 million$127-132 million--
8/8/01Captain Corelli's MandolinWeekend£25Long$10-12 million$12-14 millionSold on 8/15/01 for 0-point difference. £25 returned to cash.
8/15/01American Pie 2Four Week£25Long$127-132 million$127-132 million--
8/15/01Rush Hour 2Four Week£65Long$181-186 million$181-186 million--
8/15/01Captain Corelli's MandolinWeekend£25Short$12-14 million$12-14 million--
8/15/01Captain Corelli's MandolinFour Week£25Short$34-38 million$34-38 million--

Assets and Bets
Initial stake: £500
Cash on Hand: £1845
Amount in Bets: £225
Unrealized Profits and Losses: £20

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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