Kevin Noonan | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
If horseracing is the sport of the kings (even though it’s not a sport), then gambling is the way everybody else deals with having to stand around in the heat for hours on end watching little men whip large animals around a circle.
We bet on everything sports-related in this country, from the Super Bowl (reported line as of 7 p.m. last night — Broncos -2.5) to, in last year’s Super Bowl, whether the San Francisco 49ers would score exactly four points (+9999) and even whether or not Beyoncé’s hair would be straight or curly at the start of the Super Bowl halftime show last year (Straight: -140, Curly/Crimped: Even Money).
Technically, I’m pretty sure, sports gambling in the United States is fairly restricted, and is pretty much limited to sports events and can pretty much only be done in Nevada, with some exceptions. The laws and regulations on gambling are complex and difficult to decipher, so, like the good business student that I am, I’m just not going to.
What I do wonder, though, is how we haven’t developed into gambling on Hollywood. With the wide variance of results and seemingly little predictive ability of studios when it comes to what will and won’t be a success (see: “The Lone Ranger,” “R.I.P.D.”), it could be argued that the betting possibilities for Hollywood films is more exciting than those for sports events.
If I gave you an over/under of “The Dark Knight” on its opening weekend in 2008 of $150 million at the domestic box office, a couple things would have come into play. One, did you think “The Dark Knight” had the potential to come close to or exceed the all time opening weekend record set by “Spider-Man 3” the year before (the record was $151 million)? The first film in the series, “Batman Begins,” had only opened to $48 million, so maybe you should take the under — that’s a big leap. But in the time since Christian Bale’s star had risen, and the trailer had been exploded on the Internet. On top of that, in a morbid sense, Heath Ledger’s premature death six months before the film’s release and rumors of an all-time great villain in his performance as The Joker had spiked interest in the film.
But would all that have been worth putting a bet on even money odds (you make back as much as you bet on top of your original bet) for the Batman sequel to break the all time opening weekend record? Well, it should have been, because it did, earning over $158 million and blowing past the previous record on its way to an eventual billion-dollar global box office haul.
That’s just an example from the past, though. Let’s take a look at some possible bets for this coming weekend. Obviously, this kind of gambling is straight up illegal if you do it in real life, but if I’m just doing it for fun, nobody can prosecute me, right? Sounds like a solid legal defense if I’ve ever heard one. Anyways, here we go.
First, just to lay some ground rules for the non-degenerates.
If the odds are +/-, it’s describing either how much money you have to bet to win $100 (a minus odds) or how much you win if you bet $100 (a plus odds). So, with the bet above that the 49ers would score exactly four points, the +9999 odds means that if you’d bet $100 and they had scored exactly four points, you would have won your $100 back plus an extra $9999.
If the odds are 2:1 or 4:1 or 3:2, it’s you multiply the fraction by your bet and then add your original bet. So, if the odds on me to finish this article on time are 60:1 and you were to bet $5 (foolish child), and I were to finish it on time and you won the bet, you’d win $305 dollars (60×5=300, plus your $5 bet).
An over/under bet is even money or 1:1 odds.
I am in contention for worst gambler of all time. The first time that I went to Las Vegas after I turned 21, I walked in $200 in my pocket and somehow managed to leave with a net $240 loss. I don’t know what happened, but whatever it was, you should never actually take gambling (or any) advice from me. Thank goodness this is fake, but also that I’m the editor so nobody can stop me from writing it.
1. “I, Frankenstein” O/U $15 million
The only film opening this weekend is the Aaron Eckhart starring “I, Frankenstein,” a movie whose trailer looks like, with a little reworking, could have been a hilarious fake film trailer in the hands of Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino.
But since it’s not fake, but a very real, very expensive ($68 million budget), very awful looking movie, it will be presented to the public this weekend against the less than stellar competition of “Ride Along” in its second week, “The Nut Job” in its second week and “Frozen” in its 10th week.
The supercool folks at boxoffice.com (full disclosure — I used to intern there, also full disclosure — nobody I have ever met has ever cared. No offense to them though, thanks for the internship) have a neat tool/algorithm that allows them to predict, with some statistical accuracy, the likely weekend box office gross for films each weekend. The site predicts “I, Frankenstein” will open in second place at $15.3 million, trailing a predicted $20.5 million for “Ride Along.”
There are a few things going for “I, Frankenstein.” One, there isn’t anything really good out there right now. It has no new competition to fight against. Sci-fi movies are hard to predict, and one of the reasons is because even the really awful ones are big box office draws sometimes. I don’t know why, you don’t know why, even the people who go see them probably don’t why, but sometimes a horrific sci-fi/fantasy film will come out of nowhere. And there’s no football this weekend, so maybe instead of watching football, people will want to go see Frankenstein. I don’t know, I’m grasping at straws.
But there’s no way this film is anywhere near successful. One, as previously stated, it looks awful. Two, it hasn’t been released to critics yet, another indicator of its general lack of quality. Last year, in this same weekend, the top film, “Mama,” opened at $28 million, but the only other film to cross $15 million was multiple Oscar nominee “Zero Dark Thirty.” The most similar film to “I, Frankenstein” to open that weekend was “Broken City,” a bad-looking action thriller aimed at male audiences, which opened at $8.2 million.
If they’re banking on Aaron Eckhart’s star-power, let’s look at the last movie in which he was the sole star. So throw out “The Dark Knight,” throw out “Olympus Has Fallen,” even throw out the awful “The Rum Diary,” and what are you left with? “Erased,” a movie that ended up going to video-on-demand before it grossed enough at the box office to actually be measured. No, “I, Frankenstein” will not be good, and it will not make money.
Bet: Take the Under
2. You will see a thinkpiece along the lines of “The beast wasn’t Frankenstein, the doctor who made him was Frankenstein.” (3:1)
Parlay (meaning both the above and the following conditions must be true in order to win): A. The article will be on Gawker, Slate or Huffington Post. B. The writer will relate this movie to the failure of education in America. C. You will see the headline retweeted or reposted on Twitter or Facebook and won’t actually read it (6:1).
Look, we get it. Frankenstein wasn’t the monster. He was the doctor. It’s supposed to be Dr. Frankenstein’s monster. And this movie is possibly the worst offender on this front, with the title of the actual film getting it wrong. But Mary Shelley didn’t title her “Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster,” did she?
If Hollywood executives are anything like me and they skated by in high school and didn’t actually read Shelley’s book because the first 20 pages were super weird, who can blame them, really? I’ll tell you who — people who make money writing by being enraged by things like this. You want to know who won’t read it? Me.
Bet: I’d bet however much Aaron Eckhart got paid to star in “I, Frankenstein”
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.