Bipartisans weigh in on boxoffice betting

California senators asking for delay on approving exchanges

Democrats and Republicans have found something to agree on: Approval of boxoffice betting shouldn't happen too quickly.

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both Democrats, co-signed a letter made public Tuesday asking that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission delay a decision as to whether Cantor Exchange and Trend Exchange should be allowed to engage in the trading of movie futures.

Meanwhile, Republican Reps. Bob Goodlatte and Lamar Smith, from Virginia and Texas, respectively, joined Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, to weigh in with similar requests.

The lawmakers seemingly are taking the side of the MPAA, IATSE, the DGA, the National Association of Theatre Owners and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, which banded together last month to voice their opposition to Cantor and Trend.

Cantor and Trend are separate companies seeking permission to facilitate the trading of futures based on the boxoffice performance of wide-release films.

Basically allowing folks to bet on how well a movie performs over a given time frame, Trend and Cantor argue that their methods aren't much different from the kind of futures trading engaged in by traders of numerous other commodities.

But as with orange juice futures traded by Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places," the opportunity for shenanigans shouldn't be ignored, the MPAA and its coalition of detractors said.

In its letter last month, they even likened nonexistent boxoffice futures trading to "abusive practices that triggered our nation's economic crisis."

The letter from Feinstein and Boxer was less dramatic: "We believe that the CFTC has an obligation to consider the film industry's views thoroughly before authorizing the creation of a new market that would profoundly impact this business," they wrote.

Cantor president Rich Jaycobs is taking meetings with studio personnel this week, trying to convince them there is a benefit to hedging through the sort of trading that Cantor envisions.

"The conversations usually start with, 'it's just gambling,' and end with, 'if we can facilitate our P&A risk, I'm interested.' We just have to do a lot more explaining," Jaycobs told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday.