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Playing the Starbond Market: Hits and Misses from the Hollywood Stock Exchange

For over a decade, I’ve been an avid player on the Hollywood Stock Exchange

This online game lets you “invest” in movies, celebrities, and funds managed by other players. From an initial bank account of $2 million, I’ve grown my holdings to over $150 million with ground-floor investments in films like “Borat,” “The Simpsons Movie” and “The Hunger Games.” (Also, early in the site’s existence, a friend and I caused a minor run on the market by going on bulletin boards and claiming to represent a cabal that was going to drive stocks up and down at will.) Right now, I’m ranked about 13,000 out of almost 180,000 players. 91st percentile, trick!

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 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 recent movie.

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.”

Got all that? Here’s a rundown of my recent successes — and letdowns — in the starbond marketplace.

SUCCESSES

Leighton Meester
Average paid: $9.61
Current value: $48.69
Percentage gain: +406.66%

Leighton Meester is quietly putting together an OK movie career!

Based on the bizarrely enduring popularity of ROTI’s hyperbolic Gossip Girl takedown, I was well aware that the young ladies and lady-boys of this show exerted a powerful force on the citizens of the Internet. That’s why LMEES was a good upside play with a very inexpensive bond in the single digits. But though her fame slowly grew throughout the late aughts, it was ironically the bomb Country Strong that established her bankability on the HSX market, because her bond had nowhere to go but up. It’s actually not a bad movie, either.

She followed that up with the decently successful thriller The Roommate, in which she terrorized Minka Kelly, and then played sidekick to Selena Gomez (see below) in Monte Carlo.

No doubt her beauty and notorious born-in-prison story have created quite an internet following for ol’ Meester. Her films have done OK too. Still, I think it’s time to sell high on this starlet before her next movie comes out — which also stars the next actor on our countdown. I love Meester, but I’m not convinced of her staying power as a movie star.

Andy Samberg
Average paid: $18.23
Current value: $56.29
Percentage gain: +208.78% 

I bought Samberg’s stock soon after it IPOd. As I have established, I am a major fan of The Lonely Island and consider them to be some of the finest comedians of our time. As the group’s frontman, Samberg was an obvious investment choice.

ASAMB’s value cratered after the failure of TLI’s film Hot Rod. But he’s mounted an enduring and impressive recovery over the past couple of years, playing supporting roles in successful films like I Love You, Man and Friends with Benefits. It remains to be seen whether Samberg can handle the role of leading man in a Hollywood flick, but he will have a more prominent spot in the upcoming I Hate You Dad, where he portrays Adam Sandler’s estranged son, with Meester as his fiancee. Since everything Sandler has done for over a decade was awful in my eyes, I will not be seeing this film, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it does well, like the rest of Sandler’s turkeys.

Because I have a ton of respect for Samberg’s talent, as well as his love of throwing things on the ground, I’m going to hold onto his bond for now. He’s got a lot of long-term value.

Chris Evans
Average paid: $16.92
Current value: $48.83
Percentage gain: +188.59%

Insider trading! I’ve known this guy for years, so this was a no-brainer investment. Cevans has a ton of upside, both as an action star and as a comedy talent…

Although his significant role in The Fantastic Four put his bond on the market to begin with, the sequel failed to ignite with audiences and the franchise was scrapped. Roles in films like Street Kings, The Losers and Push kept his value afloat but didn’t realize any significant profits.

However, the last year-plus has seen major success for CEVAN. He basically stole Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with his amazing one-scene performance as an asshole movie star. Then he headlined the big-screen launch of the Captain America franchise, which was a huge hit.

Although he may deliberately dampen his celeb status due to his hatred of doing silly press appearances (with very memorable exceptions like seducing a GQ reporter and revealing his awesomely 90’s school photos to Jimmy Fallon), upcoming roles in The Avengers, further solo installments of the Cap storyline, and adventurous indie turns like Puncture should keep his value rising for some time to come. Buy.

Blake Lively
Average paid: $19.08
Current value: $50.56
Percentage gain: +164.99%

Oh B Live! How can you not own this bond when the ticker symbol is BLIVE??

Another wise pickup from the cast of Gossip Girl, Lively was the first to forge a movie career (thanks, Traveling Pants franchise!) and she’s had the most success thus far of her CW compatriots. Although people around here still make fun of her attempt at a Boston accent in The Town (and the tabloid rumors that Jennifer Garner had to fly out to Boston to babysit Ben Affleck lest he succumb to Blake’s blandishments), there’s no denying that she’s had a string of roles in high-profile, moderately successful films.

Green Lantern was supposedly a huge bomb, but grossing over a hundred million dollars meant that it kept BLIVE’s value high. She doesn’t have another film coming out for a while, and apparently turned down a role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — smart move, I think this whole zombie fad has to be running its course, right? Please tell me it is. I’m really bored of vampires and zombies.

Anyway, I’m holding BLIVE. It takes a stronger man than I to let her go.

Rachel McAdams
Average paid: $47.00
Current value: $95.24
Percentage gain: +102.64%

This lady is on fire! Everything RMCAD touches turns to gold these days.

In addition to playing femme fatale Irene Adler in the highly successful Sherlock Holmes franchise, McAdams carried the silly-looking (I didn’t see it) Morning Glory to a 50% profit above its budget, and helped make Midnight in Paris one of Woody Allen’s most successful late-period movies. Her bond value is creeping up into the triple digits, and this has been my largest dollar-profit investment in the starbond market in recent memory.

So, I’m tempted to tell you it’s time to sell. After Holmes 2, her next film is The Vow, in which she plays a newlywed married to C-Tates who loses her memory, and he has to win her back, presumably by Stepping Up 2 The Streets. I have never seen a film I enjoyed with C-Tates in it, they have all been letdowns (Public Enemies) or worse (The Dilemma). BUT I hold out a lot of hope that The Vow is good, because director Michael Sucsy hit a home run with HBO’s Grey Gardens and is a hugely talented dude.

Hold if you have faith. Sell if you don’t. I’m holding for now.

LETDOWNS

Selena Gomez
Average paid: $10.52
Current value: $16.14
Percentage gain: +53.42%

I probably shouldn’t be complaining about the performance of SGOME, since I have realized a 50% profit on her bond thus far. It’s just that I thought she would have broken through to bigger stardom by now, beyond her role as Bieber’s girlfriend, and that her films might be packing a little more punch at the box office. No dice. Her bond price has stalled out in the teens, which is perhaps appropriate given her choice in dudes.

Ramona and Beezus made a mere $26m — not that I’m surprised about this, because that entire movie concept baffled me. I read those books when I was a kid and I do NOT remember Beezus being a super cute Latina filly. Seems like this role was an odd fit for Gomez and marketing the movie around her kind of distracted from what its appeal should have been, the antics of that lovable scamp Ramona Quimby. Monte Carlo was seemingly a better fit (Meester is the Rosetta Stone of this article), a sort of Travelinghood of the Sisterpants film. It did just OK, pulling in $23m. Gomez doesn’t have any other projects with a firm release date anytime soon.

Sad to say, I think this is a starbond that needs to be sold. Gomez doesn’t seem to have a fanbase of her own sizeable enough to open a movie, and her acting is nothing special. All the best to her, but I’m not holding my breath for bigger returns.

Tyler Perry
Average paid: $52.34
Current value: $53.30
Percentage gain: +1.82%

I was basically obligated to pick up Tyler Perry’s starbond, because his oeuvre has helped form the backbone of my success in the HSX game, which is to routinely buy low on urban films and horror movies. They always make money and the internet fanboys always underestimate them!

Yet it seems that TPERR has stalled out because his films routinely make $50m and no more. Although that sounds like an odd thing to criticize — opening a Madea film for 50 mill no doubt realizes a huge real-life profit for Perry — it isn’t pulling his starbond up from the price point where I bought it. Adding to the bond’s lackluster performance, his high-profile film For Colored Girls was a dud, pulling down about $30m, well below the Perry standard.

This is another sell. I don’t see Perry’s bond price ever rising above the $50s; he simply doesn’t have the inclination (or perhaps the ability) to helm a blockbuster. That said, his films are still excellent investments and I will be grabbing every single one I see in single digits or the low teens.

Kristen Bell
Average paid: $36.88
Current value: $27.38
Percentage loss: -25.76%

Mayday! Abandon ship! Kristen Bell’s starbond is tanking worse than the second season of Heroes. 

KBELL seemed like a good upside play a couple of years ago. She was a huge fanboy favorite, with roles in a number of geeky classics and a solid supporting turn in the titular role of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. That’s when things took a heinous turn. She unleashed a string of duds: When in Rome, You Again, Burlesque.  I felt sure she could right the ship with Scream 4, because horror movies always do well. But it was a whiff, pulling in less than its $40m budget in the domestic box office.

At this point, Bell has proven she can’t open a film, and even the supporting roles she’s taken recently have been in stinkbombs. Sell Bell.

Adam Scott
Average paid: $30.50
Current value: $18.51
Percentage loss: -39.31%

I thought I was getting a steal on the next big comedy star when I snagged ASCOT — a perfect ticker symbol for an actor who has made his living playing douches for years. But it seems that the 30 bucks I paid was the top of the market for the foreseeable future.

Adam Scott is hilarious, but unfortunately, the dumbasses of America just don’t seem to get the joke. His work on Party Down was brilliant, but that show couldn’t even get renewed on pay cable. Now he works on Parks and Recreation, a great yet low-rated series. His last appearance on film was a supporting role in Our Idiot Brother, another box office fizzle. Game over, right?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Buy. Is it so crazy to think that Seth McFarlane’s forthcoming directorial debut TED will be a huge hit? Even in light of the evidence against him, this amazing scene makes me believe in Adam Scott’s abilities as a movie actor. Although I’ve taken a bath on this investment, ASCOT is still a good value at $18.51.

Nicolas Cage
Average paid: $33.31
Current value: $30.14
Percentage loss: -9.52%

Having NCAGE as part of my portfolio was a no-brainer, because I truly believe there is no actor more entertaining in film today than Nic Cage.

Whether it’s in an amazing piece of art like Adaptation or a titanic stinkbomb like Drive Angry, Cage brings his A-game to every role and makes it worth watching. The remake of the Wicker Man was basically cinema blasphemy, turning an all-time classic into a complete joke, and yet this montage of scenes is one of the best things on the Internet, thanks to Nic Cage. “Killing me won’t bring back your God damned honey!”

However, his well-publicized financial troubles have led to Cage cranking out three films a year for the past few years, with a bunch of duds among them. It’s been a while since his last blockbuster, and his bond has essentially stalled in the low 30s.

That’s why this is a great time to Buy Nicolas Cage! Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is right around the corner and another installment of the National Treasure franchise is in the works as well.

And besides, it’s Nic F’ing Cage we’re talking about here. Your starbond collection could never be complete without one of the best movie stars of our time.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

2 Responses to Playing the Starbond Market: Hits and Misses from the Hollywood Stock Exchange

  1. Rachel says:

    I’m hoping The Vow is good too. I haven’t been a huge fan of Channing’s movies either. I might be tempted to sell.

    • Fair point. I thought director Michael Sucsy did such a good job with “Grey Gardens” that I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a movie I’d otherwise shun. But basically I just can’t quit McAdams. I will update in a few months with how all my recommendations played out…

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