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The box office futures market has no future.

The box office futures market has no future. (photo)

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Tucked inside the controversial but long overdue financial reform bill that passed yesterday was a clause that will mean a lot to the movie industry.

The hot disputed box-office futures market that had been set to launch this summer — in which investors could buy and trade shares in upcoming movies based on their predicted performance — was unambiguously killed dead.

It made pretty much everyone besides the companies who’d spent time developing and promoting it happy. Worries about insider trading or attempts to sabotage a movie’s values through manufactured negative word-of-mouth had become prevalent. (One thing you can say for the studios right now: at least they don’t try to undercut each other, only their talent.)

The only argument that seemed to really speak to futures market’s merits was the idea that independent films could find a new form of financing — and that the MPAA is so fearful of losing industry control that they shut it down on disingenuous terms.

It’s hard to picture futures-trading types scanning Sundance 2011 applicants with an eye towards buying an unstable stakes in them instead of just investing their money. Even the liberal muckrackers over at Mother Jones didn’t like the idea. They singled out the main industry supporter of the plan — Lionsgate vice chairman Michael Burns — as both the co-founder of the Hollywood Stock Exchange, which was one of the companies trying to make the leap from theoretical to real money, and a longtime Ayn Randian, which apparently means he shouldn’t be trusted.

07162010_madness.jpgWhen the MPAA and Mother Jones are on the same page, it’s probably time to call it a day.

While the demise of the Hollywood futures market comes as no great disappointment to me, I did dig the concept, or at least that I’d lived long enough to see it. Movies are commodities, and their production and marketing is Monday-morning-quarterbacked to death. We live in a world where civilians with no specialized knowledge feel perfectly qualified to speculate online as to whether a studio’s release date/poster/trailer are “smart.”

Also, the stocks of companies (or, more accurately, their conglomerates) do sometimes fall before the release of a movie predicted to do poorly and rebound if they succeed. The futures concept would just remove the big picture and focus solely on one film. Anyone who follows the box office knows this stuff; everyone’s perfectly capable of lambasting a studio’s marketing and production while liking a movie, and getting agitated about both separately.

Box office futures may have been a bad idea, subject to manipulation and needless volatility. But it’s nice that someone got out there and finally said what everyone was thinking. Movies are nice and all, but to validate their place in American life, they needed to have a separate index to evaluate their worth strictly as commodities. Because the way things are going, how would that not be true?

[Photos: “Wall Street,” 20th Century Fox, 1987; “American Madness,” Sony, 1932]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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