As a former columnist for two separate HSX-related online magazines (Mali's Afterhours HSX Night Club and HSB&R) I can say that the Hollywood Stock Exchange is, in many ways, very similar to Everything2. Back in 1998 it was my first solid exposure to the concept of an online community- as well as a great informational resource for the entertainment industry at large.
If you're interested to see what kinds of movie projects have been started, long before anyone else learns about it, then the HSX is a great place to get that kind of information. Each movie stock has a different level of development:
When a movie stock comes onto the market, it starts out just like a real stock option, as an IPO (Initial Public Offering). The status of the movie's development differs during its IPO phase- it could be at the concept level or midway through production.
C = "Concept Phase" : This is when the project is in its embryonic stages. Typically neither a director nor cast has been selected. Even the script may be lacking at this point. It's probably been picked up by a major studio, but information is still very sketchy on the project. Rock-bottom prices for these IPO stocks. Buy low, sell high.
P = "Production Phase" : A major studio has picked up the project, casting has probably just begun and a script has been decided upon. The name of the director is 100% confirmed at this point. Principal photography is about to begin or it just started. Prices for these stocks are still usually pretty low- unless it's a highly-anticipated movie such as Star Wars Episode I, which can sky-rocket as high as $80/share inside of a week from IPO.
D = "Development Phase" : Shooting the film has either begun, is midway through or has just been completed and post production is being put into place (special effects, soundtrack and the like). You're probably already seeing trailers for the movie on TV and in theaters. A release date has been set for the film. This is the level at which most movie stocks start to climb notably in price. You might be able to get a good price on "D" stocks if you buy in right as they change status, but if you wait too long you could end up kicking yourself, especially if it's a profitable movie.
R = "Release" : The movie is now out in theaters. During the weekend of the release, the stock is frozen, meaning that no more trading can be done on it. At this point you're hoping that the movie doesn't bomb and that you aren't invested to the gills if it does bomb. Box office totals and estimates are the only thing you're thinking about at this point. A few days after the film has been released, trading restarts. If it did well, then the price for the stock will be readjusted to reflect its box office success- this is when people will sell off the stock as quick as they can in order that they may reap a profit. Good bit of advice: never buy a hot-ticket stock if it's about to release. You want to get in when the price is low, long before the release date, and by the time it hits the theaters, its price is going to be sky-high.
There are some incredible similarities to the real Stock Market and HSX. For instance, HSX has its own version of Alan Greenspan, known as "MacDaddy," who controls interest rates on the HSX. While the HSX system is in some ways more stable and in others more volitile than the NYSE, it can be used as a solid proving ground for people who want to learn what stock trading is really like without risking real money.
The whole system and game gives you a deeper sense of appreciation for what goes into the movie and entertainment industry- from start to finish. You'll learn lingo that is unique only to the Biz (what does "going wide" mean again?), which helps to make you feel as if you are a part of it in some existential way- and, indeed, you are.
A word to the wise, however: don't play this game if you don't have a lot of time on your hands or if you get stressed out easily. It can be fun, but if you're not careful, it'll become as addictive as E2.