Pursuits: Mad Money

Forget the latest Lexus or a new indoor lap pool. Here are five ways to have some real fun with your disposable income.

1. Movie mogul

Think the title of executive producer has a nice ring to it? Indie film writer/director David Weaver is more than happy to give you that credit on his next movie, Moon Palace, if you'll finance the project's $5-million production budget. It's a romantic comedy about a guy who works at a Chinese restaurant whose owner has bugged the customers' tables. By eavesdropping on the diners' conversations, the protagonist writes customized fortunes for each guest's fortune cookie. The guy's life becomes complicated when he falls in love with a customer but is embarrassed to tell her how he learned so much about her. While the premise may not scream Harry Potter-like profits, consider this: Moon Palace is based on Weaver's 25-minute short of the same name, which premièred at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival, won about a dozen film fest awards around the globe and sold to Hypnotic, an entertainment company, which among other things produces the hit TV show The O.C. Weaver is represented by Tina Horwitz, an agent at Toronto-based Vanguarde Artists Management.

2. Whee!

Nothing says success like your own personal theme park. The fun begins with picking what to put in it. No amusement park is complete without a roller-coaster, and Wollerau, Switzerland-based Intamin makes some of the best. That company is behind the award-winning Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, a US$25-million “giga-coaster” in which thrill-seekers barrel down a 300-foot drop at a white-knuckle 80-degree angle. For something tamer and cheaper, Ital International, based in Nashville, Tenn., can outfit your park with a 20-bumper-car ride for US$350,000. And why not throw in a few games of skill? Chalfont, Pa.-based Skee-Ball sells its familiar Classic Alley machines for US$4,195 a pop. All told, you'll drop roughly US$20 million for something like Michael Jackson's Neverland Valley Ranch to upward of US$200 million for something like Paramount Canada's Wonderland north of Toronto, says John Gerner, a managing director at Leisure Business Advisors, based in Richmond, Va. Be sure to buy lots of insurance.

3. Raise the bar

If you like showing people a good time but know how to separate business from pleasure, consider opening a nightclub. Nick Di Donato, president and CEO of Toronto-based Liberty Entertainment Group, says you'll need to shell out a minimum of $150 per square foot to build your hot spot, which should be innovative. For example, his C Lounge in Toronto gets its inspiration from a spa, and features such amenities as a complimentary salon. Although Di Donato insists the glamour of owning an “it” spot quickly wears off, U.S. nightclub king Rande Gerber continues to bask in the limelight. He parties with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and at the end of the night goes home to his wife, Cindy Crawford.

4. In fashion

If you have style and money to burn, why not launch your own fashion brand? To produce, distribute and promote it, you'll spend anywhere from thousands to millions, says Jennie S. Bev, author of Breaking Into and Succeeding as a Fashion Designer. For a single collection, you'll need to create about 30 looks. To stay in vogue, Bev recommends that you read industry reports from such organizations as the Committee for Colour and Trends. And to promote your brand, scoring a photo-editorial or write-up in an influential magazine can often have more value than buying ads. If you really want to make a splash, Bev says you can hire supermodels to strut your styles at New York's annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Kate Moss might have some free time these days.

5. Comic relief

You'll be a god among geeks by owning one of the estimated 130 copies of the world's most valuable comic book, Action Comics No. 1. Published in 1938, it features the first appearance of Superman and includes a pseudo-scientific explanation for his superpowers. What's more, it has proven to be a savvy investment. According to Jeff Vaughn, the executive editor of Gemstone Publishing, a “near mint” copy of Action Comics No. 1 was worth US$125,000 a decade ago but could fetch US$1 million or more today. calvin leung