Betting on the Box Office: U.S. Approves Movie Futures Exchange

Which movies will do best at the box office? Fans may soon be able to bet on -- or against -- films with a new movie-futures exchange.Federal regulators have paved the way for a controversial new electronic exchange that would enable investors to bet on the commercial success or failure of upcoming Hollywood releases.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, Monday voted 3-2 to approve the new futures contracts tied to box-office receipts, to be traded on the Trend Exchange, the Associated Press reported.

The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the major Hollywood studios, has vigorously opposed the idea, arguing that rival production houses could bet against upcoming movies, driving their value down and thereby dissuading moviegoers from heading to the cinema.

But the CFTC majority dismissed those concerns. "The Commission found that the contracts are based on commodities, are not readily susceptible to manipulation and serve an economic hedging purpose," the agency said, according to Reuters.

More Investment or Speculative Trickery?

Proponents of the new exchange argue it would increase investment in the film business and allow studios to hedge against risky projects by betting against them. The CFTC approval opens the door for trading to begin on "Takers," a Sony action film starring Matt Dillon and Paul Walker, which opens on August 20th.

Among the two dissenting voices was Commissioner Bart Chilton, who argues that the movie-futures exchange could be a slippery slope. "If we approve these types of things on the arguments posed in favor of them, we could be approving things like death pools or terrorism contracts, something Congress surely never intended," Chilton said in a statement.

The new exchange, proposed by a company called Media Derivatives, which is owned by privately held Veriana Networks, is one of two new potential movie exchanges. Financial giant Cantor Fitzgerald has also proposed one, on which the CFTC is expected to rule by June 28th.

Despite the CFTC approval, Hollywood opposition may yet win the day. The U.S. Congress is weighing a bill that would ban box-office exchanges.
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