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Grapevine’s GameStop hits the big screen in ‘Dumb Money’

Commuters pass a pile of fake dollar bills in central London to promote the film 'Dumb Money' on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.
Vianney Le Caer/Vianney Le Caer
Commuters pass a pile of fake dollar bills in central London to promote the film 'Dumb Money' on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023.

Remember when GameStop had a moment in the spotlight as small investors rallied the stock price and left big investors wondering what happened?

It’s no surprise, then, that this 2021 David-versus-Goliath story found its way to Hollywood. GameStop now finds itself in the spotlight again as a new Sony Pictures release, “Dumb Money,” tells the story of how the company became a “meme stock.” A meme stock is when shares of a company gain social media popularity, and individual investors, as opposed to large-scale traders, begin investing in a stock.

In 2021, the Grapevine-based gaming retailer looked to be on the verge of collapse – so much so that big investors, including hedge funds, were “shorting” the stock, basically betting it would fail. But a social media phenomenon, fueled by small retail investors, helped shore up the company’s stock price, and GameStop has lived to sell more video games. Stock in the company, viewed as an outdated, primarily brick-and-mortar retailer, became highly valued, going from $40 a share to $400 within a matter of days, primarily because of the activism of small retail investors. Along the way, the small investors exposed some flaws in the way stocks are bought and sold, particularly to large investors.

GameStop is not out of the woods yet. The company had a net loss of $2.8 million in its second quarter, though that is better than the $107.8 million loss for the same quarter the previous year. On Sept. 28, on the eve of the movie’s nationwide release, the company announced that billionaire and founder Ryan Cohen was named president and CEO. The company’s previous CEO, former Amazon executive Matt Furlong, left two months ago, one of a string of CEOs the company has had over the past three years. Cohen’s holding company, RC Ventures, is the largest shareholder of GameStop, owning 12.1% of the stock. He will not receive compensation as president and CEO, the company said.

GameStop officials did not provide any comment on the film.

“Dumb Money” focuses on members of a finance-focused Reddit community called r/wallstreetbets, where participants discuss stock and option trading. Members of that subreddit helped organize individual investors to focus on GameStop. Their investments drove up the stock price and put the professional investors, who had expected GameStop to fail, in a difficult position.

Paul Irvine, professor of international finance and investments at TCU’s Neeley School of Business, said the GameStop episode was unique.

“It was the first time that anyone found a way to coordinate what I call ‘noise’ traders and convinced them to all do the same thing,” he said.

Irvine said the factors that made GameStop the ideal meme stock don’t often apply to other companies. AMC Theatres, Bed Bath and Beyond and BlackBerry are other stocks that gained investments as meme stocks but not to the impact level that individual investors had on GameStop.

“I think a lot of these 20-somethings who invested probably grew up in GameStop stores, playing games there, and they had a lot of fondness for it,” he said. “That’s not quite the case with a lot of other stocks. GameStop turned out to be technically a perfect stock to try something like this on.”

Irvine also said timing had something to do with the success of the GameStop investments.

“You have to remember that in 2021 you had a lot of people sitting at home, and they had money from the government because of the pandemic,” he said. “They had money and time to do something like this. That’s not the case today.”

Rob Smat holds a copy of his book on the GameStop story, “Power to the People.”
Courtesy photo
Rob Smat holds a copy of his book on the GameStop story, “Power to the People.”

While Irvine sees the GameStop story as unique, Fort Worth filmmakerand author Rob Smat believes the meme stock phenomenon is just beginning. He has a new book coming out on the subject, “Power to the Players: The Real GameStop Story, and Why It’s Only Getting Started.

“What appealed to me about this story was that these people that invested in GameStop were activists that were not just working hard, they were working smart,” he said. “It’s about creating change, which is what I saw them doing and much like Thomas Marshall in my ‘Walkout’film.”

“Walkout” tells the story of a Walmart employee who advocated for change after the mass shooting event at the retailer’s El Paso location in 2019.

Smat believes there are more possible GameStop-type stocks out there and says it is only a matter of time before the market sees more impact from these investors.

“I think GameStop was just the beginning,” he said.

Directed by Craig Gillespie from a script by Lauren Schuker Blum, Rebecca Angelo and Ben Mezrich, the film is based on the 2021 book “The Antisocial Network” by Mezrich. The cast includes Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Vincent D’Onofrio, America Ferrera, Nick Offerman, Anthony Ramos, Sebastian Stan, Shailene Woodley and Seth Rogan. The film opens in wide release Sept. 29.

Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at 

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policyhere.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.