I love fantasy sports. I can’t seem to get enough of them. I’ve been fairly successful at them too, which is incentive to keep playing. It’s also incredibly addictive. If I had to chose a favorite part, it is the draft and the anticipation of building up to that moment when everyone gets together and selects the players for their teams. And the fantasy aspect adds a whole new wrinkle to any sports season.
Well, a few of us decided that we wanted to expand the world of fantasy beyond sports to movies. So we created a fantasy movie league, based upon the premise of fantasy sports. And I like to think that it has been wildly successful and enjoyable. One of the best part of it all is that there are two “seasons” that we do. The Summer League is for the Summer Box Office season, running from the first weekend in May(occassionally the last weekend in April depending on the release schedule) until the last weekend in August. The Fall/Winter League runs from sometime in September/October until the end of January.
Each person in the league selects 5-6 movies that they will own for the season, with the draft running in a typical snake order, meaning the person with the 1st pick in the 1st round would have the last pick in the 2nd round. Scoring is based on how the movie performs in the theaters(domestic boxoffice only) for the first five weeks of its release. Here is where it gets fun. Rottentomatoes.com has an aggregate percentage of all of the reviews that a movie receives from the critics. We take that average and multiply it by the movie’s five week boxoffice figure. The owner of the movie then gets to keep that percentage of the boxoffice as his score. For instance, Inception was the #1 movie last weekend, making $62.8 million. Currently, Inception’s tomatometer rating is at 86%, so the owner of Inception made $54 million based on just those three days. Whoever has the highest total by the end of the season is declared the winner.
We started out with just five of us selecting six movies last summer. With there being a general drop in box office numbers and number of releases in the fall/winter we cut down to five movies each for the Fall/Winter round. This summer we’ve expanded to a sixth participant and still kept it at six selections. Since there is no monetary winnings involved, we’ve tried to get creative with the league. Last summer, I lost, and had to perform a dance at my friend’s wedding, as selected by the winner of the league. For the Fall/Winter league, I won and got to select a movie to make the last place finisher watch as well as write a running diary of the experience. We decided to make that a standardized result of winning every time around now. Also, as a reward for winning, the winner is guaranteed one of the top 2 selections in the next draft, but cannot have the #1 pick in more than two consecutive drafts. We’ve also instituted a $250 million cap on earnings for movies, in the event of huge box office earnings as seen with Avatar or the Dark Knight. Keeps things competitive. We also allow for one add/drop in advance of a movie’s release, but you must pick up a movie at least a week before it is released. And if a movie is pushed back out of the timeframe of the “season” then you must replace it with another movie.
Last summer was a debacle for me, as I put my trust in Michael Bay and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which performed well financially but earned a 17% tomatometer rating. I bounced back with a win in the fall thanks to Avatar. And decided to keep the #1 pick again for this summer when we drafted back in April. My selections were as follows:
Rd 1: Toy Story 3
Rd. 2: The Other Guys
Rd 3: Despicable Me
Rd 4: The Adjustment Bureau
Rd 5: Killers
Rd 6: Nanny McPhee Returns
Obviously, I was and remain very comfortable with my first pick. Toy Story 3 was probably the easiest, most bankable selection you could possibly make, since it’s a Pixar movie, a kid’s movie, and a solid franchise. Despicable Me has been a boon for me as well. The Adjustment Bureau was pushed back to the Fall, so I had to replace it with Ramona & Beezus, which is currently tracking at 38%. Killers was a bust, though not unexpected. Nanny McPhee Returns will probably not be huge for me, but the picking we slim at that point. The Other Guys is primed for the late summer comedy business that made the Rush Hour franchise so much money. Jury is still out on the reviews.
There is a lot of strategy that goes into drafting your team. You need to consider the track record of the director and the actors involved with each movie. Whether a movie will get a wide release, especially if you take a risk on something that is starting out in limited release and expanding to a wide release after a few weeks. You need to consider the release date and whether other competing movies will drain the audience for your movie or if it won’t have sustained numbers because of a huge release the week after its release. The two most important factors are anticipating the critical reception of a movie and the audience of the movie. A movie like Toy Story 3 is a sure thing because Pixar is a critical darling and audiences devour it. The real hard work is in the later rounds and the add/drops. Picking up Ramona & Beezus was a strategic move on my part because of the child audience, the built-in audience because of the Beverly Cleary books, and the assumption that kids flicks are reviewed more leniently, or at least by a different standard, by critics.
We’re still tweaking with the rules and regulations of the league, but we’re really enjoying the experience of expanding the fantasy horizons and creating something that is fun and doesn’t require the same amount of attention to detail as your typical fantasy sports league.