We are currently in a lull before summer and its attendant blockbusters arrive. It's not exactly a great time for cinema. This week we have three movies with low to middling expectations.
First up is "Fighting," (FGHTN) Channing Tatum and Terence Howard starring in a movie that violates about the ninth or tenth rule of Fight Club: thou shalt not make a bad imitation of Fight Club. It's trading at H$25, just slightly off its high, and up more than H$4 today. That's an interesting sign. The strike price is H$10, which feels on the low side, although not totally unrealistic. The call is at H$1.61, but up 5/8 today. The put is at H$2.91, but down 5/8 today. So we are definitely seeing movement towards the high side of expectations. Critics, no surprise, are not enthralled; it's at 34% on rottentomatoes.com, not that that matters much in a movie like this. It's opening on 2,310 screens, not a bad launch. Mixed signals all the way around, although trending positive today. My bet is that it will come close to the bullseye of the strike price, right around a $10 million opening. Which means I am shorting both options.
Note: Stock changed to Short on Friday morning.
Next up is a movie about another kind of fighting, this one between women, over a man. No topless fighting here! Beyonce and some other people star in Obsessed (OBSES). Ms. Knowles is a beautiful woman and a fine singer, and, I guess, a decent actress. Not really sure about that last part, but I'm sure she has great screen presence. This one is in roughly the same position as FGHTN; it's up today, to H$51 and change, just barely off its high. It has a solid upward trend. The strike price is H$20, double that for Terence and Channing, but the price issues are similar: the call is under a buck, but slightly up today, while the put is at almost H$5. So we're not feeling quite the same kind of optimism. There are no reviews posted on rottentomatoes.com, which is NOT A GOOD SIGN, because it means that it was not screened for critics. Which means that the studio does not have a lot of faith in it. This is not all that uncommon with cheesy horror movies, but you would expect the studio to show a little more respect and love to Beyonce. It's opening on 2,500 screens, just a few more than FGHTN. The prediction at boxofficemojo's Derby is that Beyonce and Co. will clear $15 million. Movies with African-American stars are often underestimated, but not always. Let's go with $15 million.
Last, and also with low expectations, is The Soloist (SOLOS), a serious drama (!) about a true story. I know the story, because I read about it while it was happening. It's based a on series of columns by an LA Times columnist named Steve Lopez. He's not my favorite LA Times columnist - I think he can get a little sentimental - but he's good, and he keeps in touch with the city. He's sort of the local color commentary guy. He met a homeless man named Nathaniel Ayers, who turned out to be a former musician at Julliard, rendered destitute and dysfunctional by schizophrenia. It's a semi-inspiring story (I don't know the ending), all the more so because it's cliches come to life. The stock has been dropping like a rock, from a high of H$41 to its current price of H$27. The strike price is H$15, which it very likely will not make. The call is H$1 and something, not terribly surprising, while the put is, also understandably, around H$4. I am actually somewhat optimistic about this movie, mostly because it has a great cast. I think Robert Downey Jr. is an inspired choice to play Lopez, and I think Jamie Foxx is perfect for Ayers. There has been a lot of talk recently about the sorry state of adult dramas, especially since State of Play - featuring three Oscar winners - was handily beaten by 17 Again last weekend. I think the problem with that and Duplicity and The International before it was that they all sounded terribly cliched - thrillers revolving around corporate malfeasance. Who hasn't heard enough about that recently? This, on the other hand, is a very human story. I don't think it will make its strike price, but I think it will surprise. It's at 54% on rottentomatoes.com, with reviews all over the place - some love it, some hate it. It's opening on just 2,000 screens. I think audiences are starved for something like this. I'm going to aim high, at $13 million.
Lots of uncertainty tonight, so I am going to be sure and check in tomorrow morning.
Update Friday morning: FGHTN and SOLOS are both fairly stable, FGHTN is unchanged, SOLOS is down a half. OBSES, on the other hand, is down more than H$2. I changed my mind on FGHTN, partially because the prediction on boxofficemojo.com' The Derby is $8.5 million. Also, the score on rottentomatoes.com is down to 27%. I just don't see any hook for the audience. OBSES' downward drift confirms my Short. Any movement beyond about H$1 on Friday morning is an indication one way or the other (less than that is just normal trading).
Update Monday night: Boy, have I got to stop underestimating movies I am not interested in. OBSES blew out all predictions, particularly mine, opening at $28 million. I also have to start doing better research. FGHTN, on the other hand, came in pretty much right on target, opening at $11 million, although my short of the stock was slightly off. I aimed too high for SOLOS; it came on the low end of expectations, at $9 million. I got the stock and the put wrong, but at least I got the call right. Amazingly enough, I actually went up one in the rankings, despite losing H$1 million plus on Beyonce.