In April of 1992, a movie industry analyst name Mr. David Davis of Paul Kegan Associates, Inc. was approached with an interesting and fresh business idea. The proposal was to create a new investment group, Arundel Partners, that would exist solely for the purpose of purchasing sequel rights to motion pictures produced by major U.S. movie studios. The proposal was unusual in that studios rarely sold rights to sequels prior to 1992, and interesting in the sense that it did not target specific movies or negotiate prices based on performance of the first movie. Instead, Arundel wanted to create a portfolio of options to produce all sequels at a studio for a given time period. The incentive to the studios is that Arundel would give them cash during production or up front, which would help finance the original movies. Increasing quantities of sequels were being created in recent years as the industry realized that they are lower risk investments as opposed to new, unproven motion pictures with no sure signal of how it will do at the box office. The risk in buying rights to sequels appears in the form of guessing which originals will be successful, and Arundel hopes to mitigate this by creating a portfolio of all possible sequels and pricing it accordingly as a whole. Therefore, they will not have to deal with analysis of individual movie proposals or interfere artistically with the production of pictures in an attempt to boost perceived expected box office sales. They want to minimize their risk and direct involvement in matters they would have difficulty fully immersing themselves in and comprehending.
The specifics of the proposal were as follows: Arundel would agree with one or more studios separately on a period of time over which it had rights to all potential sequels (more than a year). If a certain movie was deemed eligible (likely profitable) for sequel production, Arundel could produce it, or possibly hire professionals to do so. It could alternatively sell the rights to production off to the highest bidder. There would also need to be an expiration date, let’s say 3 years from the release date of the original movie, by when Arundel must declare their intention to produce a sequel, lest they forfeit their rights. Statistically speaking, sequels to hit movies are usually hits themselves, and end up profitable the vast majority of the time. Their production cost (negative cost) is higher by about 20% on average, and the revenues lower by about 30%, but a lot of uncertainty about the predicted cash flows is eliminated by using the first movie as a predictor. Although this means that it is unclear whether a sequel will be profitable until the original is produced, the studio itself would have the most information regarding this, and would be best able then to gauge the profitability of a sequel early on, even perhaps during early production of the first movie. This is unfavorable for Arundel, as they would be in a worse position to bargain prices as the less informed party. Their best bet is then to make the purchase at t=0, before production begins and more information regarding probable success becomes apparent to the studios. It effectively levels the playing field as far as equal information regarding the investment is concerned. For this same reason, Arundel would like to buy a portfolio of rights rather than individual rights, as they would put themselves at a disadvantage by having to analyze individual movies’ prospects, something that studios are constantly doing directly and indirectly during production. Through a portfolio of sequel rights, they diversify some risk and take all the guesswork and additional analysis out of the picture.
PRICING THE DEAL
We next needed to answer the question of how much Arundel should be willing to pay for these sequel production rights. If they are interested in creating a broad portfolio encompassing all six major studios, we can use several...