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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.

LETDOWNS

Chris Pine

Average paid: $54.04
Current value: $63.02
Percentage gain: +16.61%

Speaking of the failure of This Means War, let’s talk about its other male lead. Is Chris Pine the kind of actor that makes people flock to the theaters by name recognition alone? Maybe not, but he’s a likable leading man who’s locked in roles in a couple of legitimate franchises. Ben Affleck built a career on less.

Star Trek 2 and Jack Ryan should be sure things at the box office, with potentially even more sequels to follow. Even if Pine has shown that movies like People Like Us that rely on his charm to sell tickets are going to be pretty disappointing moneymakers, the legacies of Gene Roddenberry and Tom Clancy are gold-plated. In a world where every Twilight actor has a bond price far surpassing $100 (more on that in a second), I have to believe Pine’s price will rise once his trailing average incorporates more hits. He was nearly at $80 in July before a massive sell-off clocked $20 off his bond price.

Therefore, even though I’m not convinced that Chris Pine is the next George Clooney, I recommend you BUY his bond at its current bargain price. Just be ready to sell high when the time comes.

Ashley Greene

Average sold short: $185.71
Current value: $162.95
Percentage gain: +12.26

Not only can you buy moviestocks and starbonds to speculate that their value will rise, HSX also allows you to short-sell commodities, gambling that their value will fall. In other words, you promise to sell a stock or bond at its current price at some future date; then if the price falls in the interim, you buy low and sell high, turning a profit. Of course, if the price goes UP, you lose money.

After the last column on HSX, I asked fellow aficionado Major Beans if there was anyone he thought I should short-sell in the bond market. His concise advice: “The entire cast of Twilight.”

Sure enough, the undead gang has insanely overpriced bonds, due to a combo of their appearance in several megahits and overheated market demand. Easily the most unjustifiable bond price among this posse is Ashley Greene’s, which was $185 when I picked it up and still floats, obscenely, above $160. MARKET INEFFICIENCY ALERT! If you’re planning to play HSX for more than a few years, selling AGREE short is about as sure of a winner as you can find. (Of course, it’s going to cost you over $4 million to take a full 20,000 bond position.) I just can’t believe the sell-off hasn’t happened yet.

Ashley Greene is very pretty, but once they stop making Twilight movies, it’s going to become abundantly clear that she isn’t two to five times a bigger star than every other actress in the world. SELL SHORT right now and wait. I’ve done the same thing for Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, and Kellen Lutz. As long as none of them die a tragic and untimely death, preserving their unsustainable bond price in amber, we’ll all eventually be swimming in profits like Scrooge McDuck.

Chloe Moretz

Average paid: $36.73
Current value: $40.83
Percentage gain: +11.16%

I really like Chloe Moretz. She was brilliant in Kick-Ass and hilarious as a tween rival to Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock. She works a LOT and has cranked out a couple of movies annually for the past few years. She’s funny, tough and has serious range. Maybe Jodie Foster comparisons are like Bo Jackson comparisons — totally unfair and absurd — but I’m going there. Chloe Moretz reminds me of a young Jodie Foster.

I kind of fear for her future because she’s only 15 and seems really…edgy. I have read a few scandalous blind items and been all, “Please don’t let this be about Chloe Moretz.” From Drew Barrymore to Lindsay Lohan, many a promising child actress has run into a swamp of substances and scandal, and not all of them make it out (although for the record, I bought low on Lohan just in case she miraculously returns to form).

But let’s get away from DrewB-vs.-LiLo prophecies and focus on straight value. $40 for an actress with Kick-Ass 2 and the remake of Carrie coming out pretty soon? That’s good upside, folks. Plus there’s the promising property Emily the Strange and The Drummer, a Dennis Wilson/Christine McVie biopic with Aaron Eckhart and Vera Farmiga that I’m really fired up about. Lots of good Chloe Moretz movies hitting the theaters in the next few years.

BUY CMORE at this choice price point. What could go wrong? (Don’t answer that.)

Brit Marling

Average paid: $5.56
Current value: $0.92
Percentage loss: -83.45%

Brit Marling was the toast of Sundance when I grabbed her bond at what I thought was the low, low price of five and a half bucks. She’d been gathering acclaim not only for her work as an actress in films like Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, but also for co-writing those films with former Georgetown classmates who also served as director-collaborators. A great actress who generates her own material? Gold mine!

Plus, there was the insider-trading element. After making absurd profits by buying low on Chris Evans, who I knew was a star when I saw him rock the stage in school days, I figured I had the next edition in Marling, who had the personal seal of approval of Alison the Business Casual and other fellow Hoya friends of ROTI. What I wasn’t taking into account is that well-regarded art films don’t really make any money, and once the trailing average kicked in, BMARL was going to be relegated to penny-stock status.

But here’s the thing. You should BUY Brit Marling’s bond. She’s set to perform with Dick Gere in Arbitrage and Bob Red in The Company You Keep, plus another co-writing starring effort in The East. Maybe the muse-to-aging-stars-plus-indie-films formula isn’t a huge cash cow, but she still has a ton of talent and buzz, and this bond is all upside. Moreover, a full set of shares only costs about $18k, so you really have nothing to lose.

Ryan Gosling

Average paid: $34.77
Current value: $44.27
Percentage gain: +27.32%

Considering that Gosling’s bond has risen at an extremely steady rate since November 2011, and took a post-Drive leap upwards before that, what’s to be disappointed in? Well, doesn’t it seem kind of odd that maybe the best actor of his generation, one of the most lusted-after celebrities in the game, and the darling of Tumblr and every hipster chick in America has a lower bond value than Jonah Hill, Armie Hammer and Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

The explanation, of course, is the HSX formula, which consistently pegs the bond value to the grosses of an actor’s films. And Baby Goose has shown a devotion to consistently taking challenging parts in low-grossing, high-intelligence dramas like Blue Valentine and Lars and the Real Girl. But his mix of role choices seems to have changed slightly, and he’s taken parts in mass-market flicks like Crazy, Stupid, Love and the forthcoming Gangster Squad. That’s why his bond price is on the rise.

But let’s not get too excited about the upside potential of RGOSL. His slate of future films involves a lot of collaborations with talented directors, but not the kind of movies that blow open the domestic box office. Sad to say, high-profile adaptations, superhero flicks and sequels rule the day, and Gosling steers clear of all of that. That’s why I’m rating this bond a HOLD. It will probably creep up above $50 in the near future, but one of Gosling’s trademark performances in a smart indie film will surely pull it back down again.

Want to play the Hollywood Stock Exchange against Alpine and other ROTI readers? We just set up a new Rumors on the Internets league — feel free to join and compete!

All prices as of the date of publication.

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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?

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