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Judge David Ryan • Location: Natick, MA
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The HSX Report -- 6/1/07
May 31st, 2007 9:58PM

Happy June! The second weekend of the official summer season is underway, with Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, Gracie -- a film about a girl who wants to play sports at her high school, and Mr. Brooks, with William Hurt as the evil side of Kevin Costner's split personality, as this weekend's openers. The big question is how Knocked Up -- clearly the best financial bet of this group -- will fare against the second weekend of Pirates and the third weekend of Shrek. I expect a pretty close race here.

The Girl from IPOnema

Two offerings today, with some pretty big names involved:

(1) Swing Vote (SVOTE) -- H$18
"The fate of the country is in the hands of Kevin Costner." God help us all. Right now, I'm not getting good vibes on this. Kevin Costner doesn't have a huge track record with successful comedies. H$18 is a cheap price for a film with a star of Costner's level... but I'd tread very cautiously here. If you do think it will work, I'd monitor it closely. A good co-star could make or break this film.

(2) Ghost Town (GHSTW) -- H$18
Greg Kinnear? Ricky Gervais? Now we're talking! Competent direction from David Koepp... Clever-sounding premise... Yep, this is a keeper. Buy it.

Today's Feature: What I've Learned From HSX
I've been trading on HSX for several years now, and I've found it to be more than just a game. You can learn a lot, too. So what have I learned about HSX?

(1) A little bit about real-life financial markets.
HSX isn't a carbon copy of the NYSE or NASDAQ, but there are a lot of similarities there. It's a good way to learn about options, short selling, and other vicissitudes of securities trading without putting real dollars at risk. In a highly simplified way you also learn how markets value securities. Like I said in an earlier post, the factors that go into valuing a corporate stock are numerous and more complex than the simple "total box office" metric used by HSX.... but starting with one factor and seeing how it affects price is a good way to get your feet wet.

(2) A lot about what product is in the Hollywood pipeline.
If you've been following my IPO news, you've seen that most of these films are still in development; many aren't even in pre-production yet. Some are only concepts. These are 2009's blockbusters you're trying to evaluate... so by the time 2009 rolls around, even the "sleepers" are old hat to you. You're in the know!

(3) How to think like a studio executive.
It's easy to think about and understand the artistic side of film. Movies are fun; good acting can generate powerful emotion in the viewer; compelling stories can leave you pondering what you've seen for days afterwards. (Heck, I'm still pondering Children of Men, and I saw it in early January.) It is difficult for most, however, to see a movie as the studio sees it: a product that has to be marketed and sold. HSX puts you in the shoes of a studio boss, and makes you ask the same questions they would: how much money is this film going to make? Is it worth investing in? Will it have broad or narrow appeal? You may think you're betraying the Muses by buying a Larry the Cable Guy MovieStock instead of Woody Allen's latest... but you're almost certainly making the right business decision. And if you want to understand the film industry, you have to understand that it's an industry -- it's there to make money by producing a product that consumers want to consume. HSX has helped me understand that side of the business.

That's all for now. Look for a brief IPO post for the weekend's IPOs coming tomorrow. Until then, keep trading. Excelsior!

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