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GameStop meme stocks documentary hits theaters this week

$6 billion short squeeze pitched as David-vs.-Goliath tale

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

It was just a year ago, this week, when meme stocks, mad stonks, and GameStop caught mainstream attention, belted billion-dollar hedge funds in the mouth, and made anarchist day-traders very rich. A year is long enough to make the first big documentary on the mania: GameStop: Rise of the Players, from the makers of 2020’s Console Wars.

Jonah Tulis and Blake J. Harris, who produced Console Wars for Paramount Plus, are back to tell the story of the short squeeze that sent the share price of GameStop — viewed as a stone-age shopping mall business headed for Blockbuster-type extinction — skyrocketing to more than $300. It had been around $5 in the summer of 2020, when other video game companies were raking in huge revenues thanks to COVID quarantine gaming.

The stock peaked at $325 on Jan. 29, 2021 as Redditors from the r/wallstreetbets community dug in, hoarding and holding onto shares in the company no matter how high the price went. This dealt staggering losses to big investment houses who had been short-selling the stock, a practice which is effectively a bet on the future price going down.

In the aftermath, the trading app Robinhood suspended trades, Congress held hearings (staring Keith “Roaring Kitty” Gill, testifying from his Game of Thrones gaming chair), lawsuits were filed, and short sellers were estimated to have lost a combined $6 billion. And while the share price of ticker symbol GME crashed almost as quickly, it hardly killed the company or the investment. GameStop closed Thursday at $102.67, which still would have been an unheard-of figure in the fall of 2020.

Tulis (as director) and Harris are positioning GameStop: Rise of the Players as a David-vs.-Goliath tale, as told by the Reddit traders who beat the Street and the investment bankers who took it in the shorts. It’s a documentary, like Console Wars, so this isn’t a dramatization like The Big Short (to which this incident was frequently compared) or scripted works in development at Netflix, HBO, and elsewhere. GameStop: Rise of the Players is airing only in theaters beginning Jan. 28, 2022.