How did InTrade do at the Oscars? Pretty well, it turns out. All the favorites – anybody trading above say 65 – won in their category. Immediately before the announcements were made, No Country For Old Men was trading in the low 70s for Best Picture, and the high 70s for Best Director. Javier Bardem and Daniel Day-Lewis were trading in the low 90s for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor respectively.
When I chided my Hollywood insider friend (he was thanked by name from the stage!) for saying that Julie Christie was "a lock" for Best Actress, he replied that the Best Actress award was the "biggest upset of the night". But that’s not really true: Marion Cotillard was trading low 30s immediately before the announcements, while Tilda Swinton was actually a much longer shot for Best Supporting Actress, trading in the low teens.
Cotillard was not an upset so much as a comfortable second-favorite (Christie was trading in the mid 50s), while in the Best Supporting Actress category the InTraders seemed to be convinced it would either be Cate Blanchett (mid 40s) or Amy Ryan (around 30). And even Ruby Dee was trading at higher levels than Swinton.
So the Upset of the Night award, I think, has to go to the fabulous Tilda Swinton. In her honor, it’s worth quoting some of her acceptance speech:
George Clooney, you know, the seriousness and the dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from "Batman & Robin," the one with the nipples, every morning under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside-down at lunch, you rock, man.
If we’d known she had that speech lined up, I’m sure she would have been trading much higher.
Update: James Surowiecki notes in the comments that the play-money Hollywood Stock Exchange beat out InTrade in this instance. Conventional wisdom holds that prediction markets work much better when real money is at stake; that certainly wasn’t the case here.