Contest to Find Tippie MBA's Best Box Office Prognosticator

Adjustment Bureau adWhile moviegoers pay rapt attention to the Academy Awards this weekend, a group of University of Iowa MBA students and faculty will focus on a possible future Oscar contender.

Students and faculty in the Tippie School of Management are participating in a contest to see which of them can most closely predict the four-week box office gross of Matt Damon’s latest thriller, The Adjustment Bureau, which opens March 4. The students will then try to profit from their forecasting acumen by trading in a box office prediction market on the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM).

Thomas Gruca, a professor of marketing in the Tippie College of Business who is overseeing the contest, said traders must consider a huge range of factors when making their predictions. How well have Damon’s movies done recently? What other movies are opening the same weekend? What does it mean that, despite Oscar buzz, the film’s opening date was pushed back from September 2010 to March 2011, a month normally considered a dumping ground for bad movies?

“This is the same kind of analysis that professional marketers perform in their work, so it gives them an idea of what to expect on the job and helps them apply what they’ve learned in class in a practical way where there are real dollars at stake,” he said.

Traders have been given access to links of various web sites with news and historical data that provide rafts of information for them to digest.

“Thanks to the Internet, traders have an ocean of information at their fingertips. To make informed predictions, they’re going to have to sort out the meaningless data from what’s meaningful,” Gruca said.

The competitors started trading Feb. 18. The winner will be the trader with the best combination of accurately predicting the four-week gross two weeks before the movie opens, predicting the four-week gross the night before the movie opens, and IEM trading results.

The Adjustment Bureau stars Damon as a politician who, according to IMDB.com, “glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he's ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York.” The movie is based on a novel by Philip K. Dick and co-stars Emily Blunt and Jon Stewart.