On March 27, the value of "Anchorman 2" on the Hollywood Stock Exchange, at the time merely a pipe dream, was $8.45 a share.
Then Will Ferrell announced the movie was becoming a reality on "Conan," and its stock rose to over $60 a share within a week.
By mid-May, when the teaser trailer debuted in front of "The Dictator" it was up to $80. Anyone who invested in the film before "Conan" made ten times that amount since, and it's still climbing.
Unfortunately, the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) isn't allowed to use real money… yet.
Here's how it works: If you think a movie (or person) is going to do better (or worse) than projected, you can invest virtual money in its stock, free to buy, sell, short, and cover, at any time.
And here's how the website describes HSX:
"Hollywood Stock Exchange® (www.hsx.com) is the world's leading entertainment stock market. At HSX.com, visitors buy and sell virtual shares of celebrities and movies with a currency called the Hollywood Dollar®.The Company's Virtual Specialist® technology allows an unlimited number of consumers to trade thousands of virtual entertainment securities in a fair and orderly, supply-and-demand-based market. HSX syndicates the data collected from the Exchange as market research to entertainment, consumer product and financial institutions and as original content to radio, television and print media. Founded in 1996, HSX is now a subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P. HSX is headquartered in Los Angeles, California."
When you first set up a free account, you start with $2 million Hollywood Dollars. You can use those dollars to invest in MovieStocks (the price of which projects the films final box-office: $1 million = $1 Hollywood Dollar), StarBonds (average gross of an actor or director's last 5 films), and other derivatives, like predicting a films opening weekend (If the number is $25 million and you guess it will gross more, anything over that number is your profit. If it grosses less, you get nothing and lose your initial investment.). While StarBonds are difficult to predict (one independent film can offset a star's blockbuster smash), MovieStocks and derivatives are easier to quantify. But they all come back to domestic box office numbers.
"First, it's a script, an idea. Then, an actor or director signs on, and the value goes up. And by the time the trailer comes out, there's a very good sense of the valuation of the property," said Rich Jacobs, president of HSX, who went on to say using real money would make HSX even more accurate in predicting a films domestic gross, as people would invest with more care. Currently, Cantor Fitzgerald, which owns HSX, uses the site to gauge predictions for gambling on movies and TV in the UK.
So why can't the HSX be used with real money? It's not for lack of trying. In fact, a few years back, it almost became a reality, with April 2010 set to start live trading of box office projections. Then the government put a stop to it.
Jacobs explained why in early 2011. "I think they were just concerned about bringing financial market transparency to an industry that hasn't had any transparency about finances," he said.
Right now, the closest thing to a real-money HSX is Intrade.com. Based out of Ireland, the website allows users to place bets on things varying from whether Barrack Obama will get re-elected to whether "The Dark Knight Rises" will beat the opening weekend record set in May by "The Avengers.". Still though, these are just bets, not a full-fledged stock market, and the bets are essentially limited to weekend box office and tent-pole releases like "The Dark Knight Rises."
For many, HSX could be a very lucrative endeavor, should the money involved ever be real. Until then, it will have to settle for being a lot of fun… and highly addictive.
For those about to sign up and looking to invest your $2 million (and why wouldn't you), here's a few recommendations:
The Hangover Part III (HNOV3) - Current value: $127.18
That's as much as the second film made over Memorial Day Weekend 2011. The only reason the number isn't higher is because there hasn't been a trailer released yet, or even a poster. But all of the talent is locked into deals and principle photography is set to begin this summer. This movie is happening. Get in on the ground floor before the price on this skyrockets (Note: This is a theme to look for when investing in MovieStocks. Confirm it will 100% be made, but invest before the first trailer for maximum profit).
Wreck-It Ralph (RALPH) - Current value - $86.52
You may have missed out on getting in before the initial trailer, but take a look at that thing. Do you honestly think this won't fly past $100 million at the domestic box office? It's still a no-brainer.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (HGAM3) - Current value - $249.39
The original "Hunger Games" passed the $400 million mark domestically, and its MovieStock (first four weeks) topped out at $336.67. Next up is the adaptation of the second book, "Catching Fire," (out Thanksgiving 2013, valued at $314.51), followed by the final book, "Mockingjay" (which may be split into two films like "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" before it). Make no mistake, "Mockingjay" will happen. It's a certainty. So investing in it while it's still valued under $250 is an absolute steal. Just plan on holding onto those shares for a long, long time.