Playing the StarBond Market Part II: More Celebrity Arbitrage on the Hollywood Stock Exchange

Hey movie fans! It’s time again for sage advice pertaining to the StarBond market on the Hollywood Stock Exchange

To refresh your memory, this online game lets you “invest” in movies and celebrities, via “moviestocks” and “starbonds,” as well as funds managed by other players. I am an avid fan of this pastime, and I’ve been playing since the late 90s. From an initial bank account of $2 million “Hollywood dollars” (i.e. not real money, unfortunately), I’ve grown my holdings to over $210 million with ground-floor investments in hit films like The Hunger Games and Captain America, as well as everything Tyler Perry has ever done. Right now, I’m ranked about 11,000 out of almost 170,000 players — up from about 13,000 the last time we talked. Credentials unfurled!

While moviestock values are easily figured, given that each stock cashes out five weeks after the movie’s release at $1 per million the film grosses domestically — thus a $100m take in US theaters after five weeks would lead to a moviestock cashing out at $100 — starbond values are a little more complex. They periodically adjust based upon market demand, as well as on a formula that reflects the success of the actor’s five most recent movies.

Or as HSX puts it, “The price of a StarBond reflects overall star power as determined by HSX Traders as well as how much money their films make at the box office as determined by their trailing average gross (TAG). Beginning with their second film, StarBond prices are adjusted to match the TAG when credited MovieStocks cash out. If a celebrity should happen to meet the end of his/her movie career, the StarBond is cashed out at TAG value.”

Hopefully that makes some kind of sense to you…

REVIEWING OUR LAST EDITION (12/5/11)…

Leighton Meester. Then: $48.69 — I Said: SELL — Now: $38.11 — I still love you, Meester.
Andy Samberg. Then: $56.29 — I Said: HOLD — Now: $46.63 — Still seems like a good value.
Chris Evans. Then: $48.83 — I Said: BUY!!!! — Now: $85.31 — TOLDJA!
Blake Lively. Then: $50.56 — I Said: HOLD — Now: $59.08 — Never stop holding B. Live.
Rachel McAdams. Then: $95.24 — I Said: HOLD — Now: $125.74 — C-Tates collab = more $$$.
Selena Gomez. Then: $16.14 — I Said: SELL — Now: $25.20 — Huh. I still don’t see it.
Tyler Perry. Then: $53.30 — I Said: SELL — Now: $51.20 — He’ll be at $50ish forever.
Kristen Bell. Then: $27.38 — I Said: SELL — Now: $24.77 — Briefly rose to $31, then cratered.
Adam Scott. Then: $18.51 — I Said: BUY? — Now: $11.52 — I give up.
Nicolas Cage. Then: $30.14 — I Said: BUY! — Now: $16.74 — I still say buy. Cage 4 life!

Now for a new batch of movie stars. I’ve grouped them into two sets: Bonds I’ve made serious money on, and bonds that haven’t lived up to my expectations. Keep in mind that my analysis strictly pertains to starbonds and whether they are over-priced or under-priced relative to future box office performance and market demand. I’m going to tell you to sell some actors I like a great deal, and to buy others I could take or leave, so don’t get it twisted. Ready? Begin.

SUCCESSES

Jeremy Renner

Average paid: $53.04
Current value: $119.46
Percentage gain: +125.23%

When seeking starbond jackpots, look for an actor with serious chops who’s got a string of blockbuster action flicks coming out. That was the case with Jeremy Renner when I snagged a full complement of his bonds in late December. In short order, Renner starred in the new Mission: Impossible, the massive hit The Avengers, and the latest edition of the Bourne series. Obviously, that made his bond price skyrocket — and Bourne hasn’t even been fully priced in yet (in terms of his 5-film trailing average, it will replace a movie called Take that de-listed at 1 cent).

All that said, The Bourne Legacy is not poised to make back its budget in terms of domestic box office. Nobody doubts Jeremy Renner’s acting abilities, and the two Oscar noms he’s already garnered are likely only the beginning for this genius thesp. He’s one of the finest actors of his generation. But there’s now real doubt whether he can open a massive action franchise on his own, to say nothing of a drama. Would The Town have been as big of a hit if he was the leading man instead of Affleck? I kinda doubt it.

Feel free to hold this bond as you wait for more data. There are more Avengers flicks to come and Renner’s starbond value is not going to fall off precipitously. Maybe Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters becomes a massive success and alters this analysis significantly. But once JRENN adjusts for The Bourne Legacy, I’m going to cash this bad boy out on the five-film run of The Hurt Locker, The Town, MI:GP, Avengers and Bourne and SELL to realize a profit of over $1.3M.

Jennifer Lawrence

Average paid: $46.33
Current value: $80.42
Percentage gain: +73.58%

Jennifer Lawrence had a starbond price in the mid-30s when she was cast in The Hunger Games. The bond immediately popped into the 40s and idled there for a while, which is when I grabbed it last winter. January saw a precipitous and baffling fall-off to the low 30s before the stock skyrocketed along with THG‘s massive opening, and since then it’s been hanging around $80. This is still an incredible value and I urge you to BUY.

JLAWR’s next five movies are The House at the End of the Street (horror movies always exceed HSX expectations), The Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell prestige flick with a late-November release) — then THREE Hunger Games sequels and another X-Men movie. When the dust settles, her bond will be well over $100.

To be totally honest, I was really underwhelmed by Lawrence’s performances in both X-Men and Hunger Games. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her Oscar-nom’d Winter’s Bone performance a fluke, but I will be curious to see if she can recapture some of that magic in Silver Linings. Maybe she’s just bored by dull mass-market material, and who could blame her if that’s the case? The bottom line is that at least four out of her next six films will do massive numbers at the domestic box office. That’s all you need to know when you’re starbond shopping.

Idris Elba

Average paid: $39.50
Current value: $83.89
Percentage gain: +112.38%

This is a bond I’ve had for a long while. Back when I fell in love with the entire cast of David Simon’s The Wire — HSX doesn’t keep track of the dates of purchase that far back, but probably late 2006 — I snapped up every available starbond I could find. Some disappointed, like Dominic West, and some rose in a low-stakes way, like Amy Ryan. Idris Elba is the one cast member to break out into blockbuster territory, and his bond has risen accordingly.

Elba has been pretty consistently signing up for movies that have the potential to be #1 at the box office the week they are released. Obsessed, in which Beyonce and Ali Larter fought to the death over his love, was so good, you guys. Even dumb action flicks like The Losers and Takers have made healthy profits, although the absurd Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance left something to be desired. Then there’s Thor and Prometheus, both of which have the potential to spawn multiple sequels (not sure we’ll see Elba in a Prometheus sequel, though).

Next summer’s b-buster Pacific Rim, helmed by Guillermo del Toro, looks pretty awesome. Thor: The Dark World is set for 2013 as well. Plus there’s No Good Deed, from a script by the super talented Aimee Lagos (of the exceptional Lagos family tree, of which I may or may not be a lowly twig). Also intriguing is his reported role in a Mandela biopic called Long Walk to Freedom. I’d head to the art house to see Stringer Bell battle apartheid! Elba’s a good bet to continue his solid run. HOLD.

Emma Stone

Average paid: $68.92
Current value: $114.65
Percentage gain: +66.35%

Emma Stone instantly became one of my favorite actresses when she delivered a scene-stealing performance in Superbad followed by virtuoso work with top billing in the surprisingly-great Easy A. She is really, really funny and doesn’t require an absurd setup to get laughs. She handled tougher material well in The Help, toplining that inspirational dramedy to a $124 delist. In addition, she is a hot ginger (actually a blonde, but that’s OK). No question, Emma Stone is awesome.

However, her bond is now hovering in the $115-$120 range. That’s a tough zone to sustain. The list of actresses with bonds this high is a short one, and more importantly, a difficult one to keep your name on (for reference, Julia Roberts is now down to $57). On the other hand, Stone is already booked for Amazing Spider-Man #2 and potentially Zombieland 2 — and sequels always do big business. She won’t be relying on her name brand alone, or midrange projects like Little White Corvette and Gangster Squad, to keep her bond in triple digits.

That’s why I advise Stone owners to HOLD her bond. No reason to go running for the exits, because she’s capable of sustaining this run for a while. If you need a place to stash some cash, ESTON is as good as any. But don’t expect to rake in serious profits above this price point. The chance to buy low is long gone.

Tom Hardy

Average paid: $57.41
Current value: $106.37
Percentage gain: +85.28%

Tom Hardy’s been in movies dating back to the early aughts (Black Hawk Down, Star Trek: Nemesis), but broke out in the past couple of years with a high-profile turn in Inception and and a jaw-dropping performance in Bronson. He’s been all over the map in the past year or so: party to the lackluster spy-rom-com This Means War, great work in the thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and, of course, starring as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.

Hardy’s next move: Prohibition drama. He’s starring in Lawless, coming out next week, and Cicero, a Capone’s-early-years flick. After that it’s Mad Max: Glory Road, a George Miller-helmed reboot of the classic Aussie franchise.

I really like Tom Hardy as an actor, but the debacle that was This Means War makes me wonder if he’s got the star power to sustain a $106 bond price (which has already fallen off from its post Dark Knight Rises adjust of $118). Although I’ll go see pretty much any movie he’s in without hesitation — but please stay away from the rom-coms, Tom — I must advise my HSX acolytes to SELL this bond.

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