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Mutual Funds

David Tice: Market Bear, Now Movie Bull

David Tice of Dallas, Texas, was famous for dire forecasts when he ran the Prudent Bear fund. But after he sold the fund, he helped bankroll an uplifting Hollywood film.

You had a reputation for gutsy calls as a fund manager. But isn’t the movie business truly risky? It is. And I always thought that it would be better to pick the low-hanging fruit by promoting movies that other people had produced, rather than going out and spending my own hard-earned money to produce one.

So why did you do it? I felt compelled by this project. Soul Surfer is the true story of a remarkable young woman, Bethany Hamilton, a champion surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack and had the courage to compete again. Also, Hollywood has made some great inspirational movies about boys, but very few for girls, and I’m the father of two girls.

Don’t first-timers usually lose their shirt making a movie? I had great confidence because I’d met a guy, Dominic Ianno, at the Sundance Film Festival who has been in the movie business for years and who has an MBA from Harvard. We had started doing business together on a couple of other projects when this opportunity came up.

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Why did you think it would be a success? The story appeals to both a mainstream audience and a faith-based audience. I felt that even if the movie didn’t appeal to the general public, the faith-based audience would cover my downside.

You are a Christian? I am Christian, but I’m very quiet about my faith.

Were there other investors? Yes, but I am by far the majority stakeholder.

Have you gotten your money back? I haven’t yet, but it looks as if I’m going to. I expect I’ll receive a decent, but not a huge, return.

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How do you reconcile your pessimism about the economy with such an optimistic movie? You’d think I’d be a hard-nosed short-seller on everything, but I do have this dreamer side that believes in individuals. I feel like we’re facing hard times ahead and people are going to have to dig deep, and I’ve always loved movies about perseverance. So I felt as though this film would be needed more than ever. We’ve created art that will be around for 100 years to inspire people.