New Fraud Futures Market: “Insurance or betting against Hollywood Movie Flops”

Get ready i-bankers, traders, greedy aholes and big dreamers, a new futures market is coming. I predict there will be insurance and selling futures against Hollywood movie flop in the next two years. I smell lobbying for this one, more than likely its being brought to DC already.

HERE’S one for “The Hunger Games” crowd: What if, in that blood-tingling climactic scene near the Cornucopia, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) had skewered poor Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) with a wayward silver arrow?

In the real world of Hollywood, questions just like that nag Paul Holehouse.

Mr. Holehouse, 63, isn’t some oddball “Games” fanatic. But he does play an unusual, and unusually high-stakes role in modern moviedom. His job is to ensure that, as they might say in “The Hunger Games,” the odds are ever in his company’s favor.

He is a longtime risk consultant for the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, the go-to insurer for the American entertainment industry. This 149-year-old company is best known for workaday automobile and homeowner’s insurance. But it has also carved a lucrative niche for itself in Hollywood and beyond.

The Fireman’s Fund, part of the German insurance giant Allianz, won’t insure against box-office losses — the Hollywood equivalent of a six-alarm fire. Not that “The Hunger Games,” which opened on Friday, is expected to fall flat. On the contrary: the movie, which cost about $80 million to make, could have opening-weekend sales of more than $100 million, far more than the first “Twilight.”

Mr. Holehouse’s job is to assess the risks associated with actually making movies like this — risks as varied as the health and habits of the actors to the dangers posed by the stunts, sets and locations. Even in the best of circumstances — a sweet romantic comedy, say — figuring out what might go wrong is daunting. But with “The Hunger Games,” a dystopian drama involving a futuristic fight to the death? Come on.

Lions Gate Entertainment hopes that “The Hunger Games” will vault it into the Hollywood big leagues. But even before the director, Gary Ross, began shooting the film, Mr. Holehouse had to do some serious risk analysis. (Neither Lions Gate nor the Fireman’s Fund would discuss the cost of the insurance, which for action movies accounts for as much as 4 percent of a movie’s total production costs, say studio heads and insurers.)

Mr. Holehouse traveled to North Carolina to check out the location, deep within DuPont State Forest. He took into account bugs, poison ivy, falling trees — anything that might pose a threat to the actors or the production schedule. He considered a chase scene across fast-running water, as well as the dangers posed by abandoned warehouses that were used as part of the set — and, of course, all swords, arrows and other weaponry.

Then there were the bears. When the movie’s location manager spotted a bear heading toward the set one day, the cast and crew were told not to bring food to the set.

“Over time, bears do find food and people,” Mr. Holehouse says. “We all had to drive off out of the property to have our lunch and dinner.” A park ranger helped keep the bears away.

OF course, insurance has been part of the motion picture business since the early days. Ben Turpin, a cross-eyed comedian remembered for his work in silent film, is said to have bought an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London, payable if his eyes ever uncrossed. Betty Grable insured her legs for $1 million. Jimmy Durante took out a $50,000 policy on his nose.




The Year Of The DragLin: “KNICKS 5 GAMES IN THE HOLE”

CHICAGO — The ball had squirted loose, been gathered up, launched and bounced loose again, before finding its way, inevitably, back to Derrick Rose. A few steps and one leap later, Rose was in flight, soaring over the paint, between Baron Davis and Tyson Chandler and bearing down on the basket.

That powerful driving dunk in the middle of the fourth quarter did not, by itself, clinch the Chicago Bulls’ 104-99 victory over the Knicks on Monday night. But it told the story.

The Knicks could not contend with the agility and ferocity of the league’s reigning most valuable player, or match the all-out hustle of the Bulls, who took the game by force in the fourth quarter, with big rebounds and second-chance points — including Rose’s stylish dunk.

The inability to match that hustle left the Knicks with their sixth straight loss, tying their longest streak of the season.

“It’s a hard situation to be in right now,” said Carmelo Anthony, had 21 points but again shot poorly (8 for 21). “Losing basketball games the way we’re losing, it’s kind of hard to stay upbeat. We’ll have no choice but to do that and keep on pushing.”

It was the Knicks’ best effort in a week. They held the Bulls to 43 percent shooting, and held Rose to a 12 for 29 night. But Rose still finished with 32 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds and dominated the critical minutes.

The Bulls grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, 9 in the fourth quarter, leading to 24 second-chance points, including 8 in the fourth. Anthony called those numbers “unacceptable,” invoking the word for the second day in a row.

The deficit was 5 points when Taj Gibson grabbed an offensive rebound — the Bulls’ second on the possession — leading to Rose’s driving dunk and a 97-90 lead. The Knicks never got closer than 4 points after that.

“I think we played great defense, held them to I think 43 percent shooting,” Chandler said, “but we didn’t finish the job. You got to get the rebound.”

Chandler grabbed 10 rebounds and Anthony had eight, but Amar’e Stoudemire grabbed just three in 34 minutes. Gibson and Joakim Noah combined for 23 rebounds for Chicago, which won the rebounding battle by 56-38.

The Bulls (35-9) entered the game with the N.B.A.’s best record and hardly seemed to miss Luol Deng and Richard Hamilton, their injured starters. The Knicks (18-24) arrived with a debilitating losing streak, a fragile psyche and the increasing anxiety that the season is slipping away.



Mar 1986:  Portrait of Socrates of Brazil after a match against Hungary in Hungary. Hungary won the match 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: David  Cannon/Allsport

RIO DE JANEIRO — Sócrates, the soccer legend and medical doctor who transcended the sport through his involvement in Brazil’s pro-democracy movement and his outspoken defense of his own bohemian excesses, died on Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil. He was 57.

The cause was septic shock from an intestinal infection, according to a statement from Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, where he was admitted on Saturday.

We were lucky to get this translated by Synamatiq’s own Portuguese reporter Deebag (pronounced Debadge) –Translation: We’re about to watch some of the greatest players of soccer and legends of Brazil. These guys will dribble your face off on a soccer field, score six goals in the first half thus losing the game by 12-0. However, that’s not the embarrassing part of the entire day. They’ll take a shower after the game, get dress; snatch your girl from you-being that you’re thirsty for their autograph. Then blaze her back in the locker room, hand her back to you-while drool about your entire team autograph your girl just got you. The team hops into their limo off to a night at Studio 54. Now watch these goals while you chew on a bunda sandwich.

Sócrates, the captain of Brazil’s team in the 1982 World Cup, had been hospitalized three times in the last four months. In recent interviews, he had described liver problems related to decades of heavy drinking, for which he was sometimes pilloried.

“This country drinks more cachaça than any other in the world, and it seems like I myself drink it all,” he once told an interviewer, referring to the popular Brazilian spirit made from fermented sugar cane. “They don’t want me to drink, smoke or think?”

“Well,” he said, “I drink, smoke (play with kitties and wet boxes) and think (of course with, two thinking caps, heh).”

His exuberant style reflected an expansive and multifaceted career. In addition to playing soccer, he practiced medicine and dabbled in coaching and painting. He also wrote newspaper columns, delving into subjects as varied as soccer, politics and economics, and made forays into writing fiction and acting on the stage.

Sócrates Brasileiro Sampaio de Souza Vieira de Oliveira was born on Feb. 19, 1954, in the Amazonian city of Belém do Pará, Brazil. His upbringing was more privileged than that of many Brazilian professional soccer players, who often rise from abject poverty.

Emerging in the 1970s as a promising young player in Ribeirão Preto, in the interior of São Paulo State, he studied medicine while playing for provincial teams before attaining his medical degree at 24. After that, he moved up to Corinthians, the famous São Paulo club with a big following among Brazil’s poor.

Known to his fans as Doctor and Big Skinny, a reference to his spindly 6-foot-4-inch frame, Sócrates arrived at Corinthians at a time of intense political activity in São Paulo, a period when anger and resistance were coalescing against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil.

Sócrates, in addition to organizing a movement advocating greater rights for Corinthians’s players, spoke at street protests in the 1980s calling for an end to authoritarian rule. That movement helped usher in a transition to democracy.

Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, praised Sócrates in a statement on Sunday.

“Dr. Sócrates was a star on the field and a great friend,” said Mr. da Silva, a Corinthians fan who is being treated for throat cancer at the hospital where Sócrates died. “He was an example of citizenship, intelligence and political consciousness.”

On the field, Sócrates was known as a wily strategist who could elegantly employ his signature move, a back-heel pass. At a time when many players maintained a clean-cut appearance, Sócrates had a beard and sometimes appeared with his long hair held back in a headband, like the tennis star Bjorn Borg.

Fans of Sócrates mentioned his name in the same breath as Brazilian soccer greats like Pelé, Ronaldo and Romário. But unlike those players, he was never part of a World Cup championship team.

The team he captained in 1982 was considered among the best to ever play the game, but it lost to Italy, 3-2, in the second round. In the 1986 World Cup, Sócrates missed a penalty kick in a quarterfinal loss to France.