Regulators approve 'futures trading' for films

Movie audience

Regulators at The Commodity Futures Trading Commission have approved a new way to make money on films. For a new Matt Dillon film coming out in August, they'll allow the sale of "futures contracts," or bets tied to box office performance and ticket sales.

The Commission voted 3-to-2 to allow these kinds of bets on ticket sales at the box office. Those in favor said it'll make the market safer. A futures contract could give film investors a way to recoup losses if the film flops. "You know if I'm investing in the stock market you're always looking to hedge your bets," says Mitchell Robbins, a Boston entrepreneur who invests in independent films.

Robbins says if he's investing in films he'd like to do the same. Investors put down a lot of money for a film two or three years out trying to judge how the film will do on one opening weekend. A lot depends on marketing.

That's what makes movies different from pork bellies, and why Professor German Bakker at the London School of Economics says a futures market is a dangerous precedent. "Participants in the futures markets could theoretically try to sabotage the marketing of a movie," Bakker says.

Big hollywood studios oppose the commission ruling. They've pushed lawmakers to add a provision to the financial reform bill under debate: it would make this new futures market illegal.


Gregory Warner contributed to this report.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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