Make this season of movie blockbusters even better with Fantasy Movie League.
Sports fans obsess over their fantasy teams. Movie fans obsess over upcoming releases and debate the potential box office success or ultimate failure of a film. With Fantasy Movie League, created by ESPN senior fantasy sports analyst Matthew Berry and other gaming industry veterans, movie fans around the world have a place to take the prediction talk further and get competitive in an online social gathering setting.
Fantasy Movie League puts you in charge of a virtual theater and tests your predictive box office skills. The game sounds very simple, but it’s actually a huge challenge and, most importantly, great addictive fun. With the arrival of summer blockbusters, jump into the game now for the exciting ups and downs that’ll keep you coming back for more.
Here’s what to expect when you join the hundreds of thousands of registered players.
Pick Your Winners
The goal of Fantasy Movie League is to choose from up to 15 films available each week to fill your eight-screen virtual cineplex in order to generate the highest weekend box office revenue. I know what you’re thinking: pick the big-budget, star-packed opening film and place it on every screen. If only it were that easy. The game gives you a weekly budget of $1,000 FML Bux, and films have a different cost per screen. Therefore, you don’t have enough money to fill each with the biggest releases. For example, Tomb Raider (2018) cost $407 screen opening weekend, while weeks-old Black Panther was still a whopping $391. Speaking with Crixeo, original Fantasy Movie League founders Eric LaVanchy and Larry Tobin explain that the pricing process is determined by a small team who draw on a lot of different data from various sources — it’s an artistic and scientific approach that’s intentionally opaque and can’t be reduced to a mathematical formula.
The key is to create a spread that includes one or more big releases, moneymaking holdovers and, as LaVanchy and Tobin stress, never underestimate niche films, such as those in the faith-based and horror genres, which can overperform. But having a different film on every screen isn’t strategic. The game’s FAQ section actually says if you have seven or eight different films chosen, you’re probably playing the game incorrectly. Former superplayer FML Nerd’s number-one rule is to have four or fewer movies on the eight screens.
One cheap(er) FML Bux pick can provide a healthy payoff over multiple screens, making it an advantageous choice. FML Nerd’s second rule: Never have a blank screen, because history says it’s rare for a movie to overperform and make up for the lack of revenue and the penalty of $2 million per blank screen combined. You have to remember it’s about cumulative totals. How do you figure out what works well together? There’s no easy answer. That’s why Fantasy Movie League isn’t simple and can be infuriating (in a good way).
Fantasy Movie League Game Play Tips
The internet is full of box office predictions. Fantasy Movie League players also post predictions to help others. By looking at the projected gross of a film before game cutoff at noon EST on Friday, you can calculate what will (presumably) work best together. A spreadsheet is handy here. And never ignore predicting the Best Performer with the highest return on investment because it nets a $2 million bonus per screen (this is based on the FML Bux cost and box office gross), which a confidential source says is essential to winning.
You should also think realistically, the source says, and use comparisons for every movie based on similar attributes: genre, actors/actresses, target demographics, time of year, release year and competition. Plus, consider MPAA ratings and number of screens. Finding this information, the source admits, can be incredibly difficult (this Beginners Guide has recommendations). Gut instinct comes into play here, too, and knowledge of the movie industry and audience behavior, which stems from paying a great deal of attention to the past and what’s currently trending.
If game play sounds confusing, overwhelming and too math-heavy, help is available in Chatter rooms, the Research Vault and guides. Player @Penny suggests finding a league to “soundboard off and strategize with because playing alone isn’t easy if you’re not into research and math, and your gut instinct only gets you so far.” Providing help and guidance is a common occurrence in Fantasy Movie League, and Tobin and LaVanchy think the game’s fan community is the nicest that’s ever existed on the internet.
You do have to expect the unexpected, though, because there’s always a sleeper hit or big-budget dud you can’t see coming. Player @Jeremy, who was drawn to the game by its “easy to pick up, hard to master” nature, confides that his “biggest failures have been figuring out splits for big-event movies like It or Black Panther. (A split occurs when you’re given the option to screen a film on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, so you have to analyze how it will play throughout the weekend.)
IT threw Penny, too — she didn’t predict how big it was going to be. As for the toughest season of the year, Jeremy says it can be any season, or even week. It depends on your strengths/weaknesses. Two more important pieces of advice: (1) Forget about your personal preferences and quality, because it’s all about the money, and (2) always bet on moneymaker The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson.
Game Play for Everyone
There’s definitely a learning curve in Fantasy Movie League, and the challenge is addictive. Jeremy finds it’s fun to compete against others, “but even more fun to compete against yourself to see if you can take what you learn and apply another level to it.” Just how deep you want to get into game play is completely your choice. I enjoy being a gut player, even when my pride takes a hit. Player @nosferatus_shadow doesn’t “go in too heavy on the analysis and number crunching,” preferring a mix of that and gut play.
Tobin and LaVanchy say the game was built to accommodate multiple types of players. If you don’t want to spend hours poring over spreadsheets, you can still have a compelling experience and enjoy yourself. If you want to do regression analysis and compete against other hard-core players for the top spot (and prizes), go for it! If beating your friends is the goal so you can gloat, that works, too. Nosferatus_shadow likes being in a small league, as it makes winning a primary motivator and provides a focused competition, adding that it’s the forum interaction — “even if you make a howler of a line-up” — that makes the game enjoyable. Jeremy likes his group’s camaraderie.
There’s no specific way to approach Fantasy Movie League. It’s about having fun, and you can decide what type of play gives you the most satisfaction. To do that, you’ve got to join in and discover this amazing community of movie fans who won’t mind when you vent about Tom Cruise’s latest flick ruining your week’s haul. Your non-movie-buff friends will likely thank you for signing up.