Investing in a Conspiracy of a Past Century





JOE RICKETTS has a simple objective for his new production company: He wants you to go to his movies and then talk about them. “I really like the idea of people seeing a movie and then visiting about it, having cocktails or dinner and talking about the movie,” he said. “ What about this part here? What did you think about that?’ I think that’s fun.”

Given that Mr. Ricketts, the 69-year-old founder and former chief executive of TD Ameritrade, built a fortune getting people to change an established habit and trade stocks online at a discount, it certainly doesn’t seem as if he is asking for the moon. And given that the other activities and business investments filling his semi-retirement have objectives that include ending congressional earmarks, getting Americans to eat bison meat and bringing a World Series trophy to the fans of the Chicago Cubs (he’s the new owner), this movie deal seems as if it should already be signed, sealed and delivered.

But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Mr. Ricketts isn’t envisioning making films that include superheroes or animated animals or other elements that augur box office success around the world, a market more important than ever to the bottom lines of studios and filmmakers. Mr. Ricketts started the American Film Company to make movies from the rather narrower category of stories from American history. The company’s $25 million debut film, opening Friday nationwide, is Robert Redford’s “Conspirator,” a courtroom drama matched with an emotional relationship story. But the film also scrupulously retells a not very well-known moment in American life, to make pointed comments about some of the most gut-wrenching issues in the post-9/11 era....


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