What Can Movies Tell You About the Stock Market?
The following article is adapted from a special report on "Popular Culture and the Stock Market" published by Robert Prechter, founder and CEO of the technical analysis and research firm Elliott Wave International. Although originally published in 1985, "Popular Culture and the Stock Market" is so timeless and relevant that USA Today covered its insights in a recent Nov. 2009 article. For the rest of this revealing 50-page report, download it for free here.
This year's Academy Awards gave us movies about war (The Hurt Locker), football (The Blind Side), country music (Crazy Heart) and going native (Avatar), but nowhere did we see a horror movie nominated. In fact, it looks like Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street was the most recent to be nominated in 2008, for art direction (which it won), costume design and best actor, although the last one to win major awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress was The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.
Whether horror films win Academy Awards or not, they tell an interesting story about mass psychology. Research here at Elliott Wave International shows that horror films proliferate during bear markets, whereas upbeat, sweet-natured Disney movies show up during bull markets. Since the Dow has been in a bear-market rally for a year, now is not the time for horror films to dominate the movie theaters. But their time will come again.
In the meantime, to catch up on why all kinds of pop culture -- including fashion, art, movies and music -- can help to explain the markets, take a few minutes to read a piece called Popular Culture and the Stock Market, which Bob Prechter wrote in 1985. Here's an excerpt about horror movies as a sample.
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From Popular Culture and the Stock Market by Bob Prechter
While musicals, adventures, and comedies weave into the pattern, one particularly clear example of correlation with the stock market is provided by horror movies. Horror movies descended upon the American scene in 1930-1933, the years the Dow Jones Industrials collapsed. Five classic horror films were all produced in less than three short years. Frankenstein and Dracula premiered in 1931, in the middle of the great bear market. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde played in 1932, the bear market bottom year and the only year that a horror film actor was ever granted an Oscar. The Mummy and King Kong hit the screen in 1933, on the double bottom. These are the classic horror films of all time, along with the new breed in the 1970s, and they all sold big. The message appeared to be that people had an inhuman, horrible side to them. Just to prove the vision correct, Hitler was placed in power in 1933 (an expression of the darkest public mood in decades) and fulfilled it. For thirteen years, lasting only slightly past the stock market bottom of 1942, films continued to feature Frankenstein monsters, vampires, werewolves and undead mummies. Ironically, Hollywood tried to introduce a new monster in 1935 during a bull market, but Werewolf of London was a flop. When film makers tried again in 1941, in the depths of a bear market, The Wolf Man was a smash hit.
Shortly after the bull market in stocks resumed in 1942, films abandoned dark, foreboding horror in the most sure-fire way: by laughing at it. When Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein, horror had no power. That decade treated moviegoers to patriotic war films and love themes. The 1950s gave us sci-fi adventures in a celebration of man's abilities; all the while, the bull market in stocks raged on. The early 1960s introduced exciting James Bond adventures and happy musicals. The milder horror styles of the bull market years and the limited extent of their popularity stand in stark contrast to those of the bear market years.
Then a change hit. Just about the time the stock market was peaking, film makers became introspective, doubting and cynical. How far the change in cinematic mood had carried didn't become fully clear until 1969-1970, when Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre debuted. Just look at the chart of the Dow [not shown], and you'll see the crash in mood that inspired those movies. The trend was set for the 1970s, as slice-and-dice horror hit the screen. There also appeared a rash of re-makes of the old Dracula and Frankenstein stories, but as a dominant theme, Frankenstein couldn't cut it; we weren't afraid of him any more.
Hollywood had to horrify us to satisfy us, and it did. The bloody slasher-on-the-loose movies were shocking versions of the '30s' monster shows, while the equally gory zombie films had a modern twist. In the 1930s, Dracula was a fitting allegory for the perceived fear of the day, that the aristocrat was sucking the blood of the common people. In the 1970s, horror was perpetrated by a group eating people alive, not an individual monster. An army of dead-but-moving flesh-eating zombies devouring every living person in sight was a fitting allegory for the new horror of the day, voracious government and the welfare state, and the pressures that most people felt as a result. The nature of late '70s' warfare ultimately reflected the mass-devouring visions, with the destruction of internal populations in Cambodia and China.
Learn what's really behind trends in the stock market, music, fashion, movies and more... Read Robert Prechter's Full 50-page Report, "Popular Culture and the Stock Market," FREE