How Are Movies Like Onions?


They both have layers? They both make you cry? They both stink? Nope. The Wrap reports that the financial regulation bill President Obama plans to sign this week "adds…box office futures to onions as the only items that can't be traded as commodities in the U.S." Why? Because the movie industry objected to the concept of betting on films' box office performance, which it argues is really a form of gambling (say it ain't so!):

[Motion Picture Association of America] President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano said future trading serves "no public interest and, to the contrary, can significantly harm the motion picture industry and impose new, substantial costs that do not exist today. These are proposals that ought to be under the jurisdiction of the federal gambling and gaming laws, not the federal commodity trading laws.  It is unfortunate that the CFTC [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] has now given the go-ahead to a new gambling platform that could be plagued by financial irregularities and manipulation."

Because the CFTC said there was nothing wrong with movie futures training, the MPAA demanded swift congressional action. But over at When Falls the Coliseum, Ricky Sprague argues that the law does not go far enough:

The MFT ban is a good first step. But naturally I would like to see the government do more to help protect vital American jobs, by banning other practices that negatively impact the entertainment industry. For instance, those "weekend box office predictions" at such irresponsible websites as boxoffice.com, Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily, The Wrap, and Box Office Guru create perceptions of failure even before a movie opens. If a film doesn't "track well," a confused public might be under the mistaken impression that a film isn't worth their patronage.

When a movie, any movie, fails at the box office, we're all a little poorer for it.

Furthermore, the so-called film critics that openly criticize films can also create the illusion that a film isn't worth seeing. This dangerous practice is causing some films to make less money than they would otherwise.

Naturally, I would not want to violate anyone's First Amendment rights. But I do believe that the government can empower the industry by using certain tools to help put an end to speech that negatively impacts American jobs. For instance, there are some films, such as "Toy Story 3," and "Inception," that most film critics agree are of very high quality, and worth audience patronage. Yet there are some film critics, most notably Armond White, who seem to want nothing more than to be contrary, and to attempt to persuade people not to pay to see these films by writing unnecessarily negative reviews that fly in the face of popular sentiment.

A "Rotten Tomato Law" would provide for the removal of negative reviews of films that have an aggregate critic score higher than 80%. The same would apply to films with lower scores, as well. Critics would be encouraged to write more positive reviews, to help get a film's rating into the "certified fresh" range. These films should be supported by everyone, as their success is vitally important to our economy. After all, if a lighting man is out of a job, he cannot purchase the breakfast oatmeal that is manufactured in those states where they grow corn.

Addendum:  For those who wondered why onion futures can't be legally traded, it's for the same arbitrary reason movie futures can't be: The industry, worried that futures trading was cutting into its profits, lobbied for a statutory ban, which it got in the form of the 1958 Onion Futures Act.