The End of the Box Office Futures Business

Dead in the water: box office futures trading, years in the making, won't even launch. That's what Cantor Exchange is saying after securing approval from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission for its box office revenue derivatives. Cantor Exchange's president Richard Jaycobs is confident that the financial regulation legislation, along with a ban on trading contracts based on box office results, will be signed into law.

And Cantor isn't fighting it.

Hollywood sign
Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images
Hollywood sign

Instead of pushing forward with plans to trade box office futures, a plan it's had in the works for nearly a decade, Cantor Exchange tells me the company has no plans to take "aggressive action" — i.e. legal action — to be able to trade box office futures.

This stands in stark contrast to Trend Exchange, which gained approval to trade box office futures earlier this month.

Trend Exchange's CEO Robert Swagger was quite vocal last week, saying he'd pursue legal action to block the financial regulation ban, saying it deserves to be "grandfathered in." He even said he'd accuse the MPAA of violating anti-trust And until the bill is signed into law, Trend Exchange is moving forward with plans to launch its products.

But Cantor will make use of the CFTC's approval of its exchange earlier this year — now it's looking to trade more traditional products, like foreign currency. (CFTC approval comes in two phases: approval of the exchange, and then approval of the products to trade on the exchange, box office futures, approved Monday).

The member studios of the Motion Picture Association of America, plus the Directors Guildand the National Association of Theater Owners are celebrating victory—they've been battling speculation on the box office. Their lobbying of Congress paid off. But some outspoken voices, including Lionsgate's Michael Burns will say this is a sign of Hollywood's close-mindedness, and will keep independent filmmakers from leveraging trading into film financing.

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