Movies as a shared experience

by on September 1, 2016 at 2:06 pm in Data Source, Film, Television | Permalink

The more some people go, the more other people want to go too.  It is something to share and talk about.  From the latest JPE, by
Duncan Sheppard Gilchrist (Wealthfront) and Emily Glassberg Sands (Coursera), here is the abstract:

We exploit the randomness of weather and the relationship between weather and moviegoing to quantify social spillovers in movie consumption. Instrumenting for early viewership with plausibly exogenous weather shocks captured in LASSO-chosen instruments, we find that shocks to opening weekend viewership are doubled over the following five weekends. Our estimated momentum arises almost exclusively at the local level, and we find no evidence that it varies with either ex post movie quality or the precision of ex ante information about movie quality, suggesting that the observed momentum is driven in part by a preference for shared experience, and not only by social learning.

Here are ungated copies, note it is fitting this research comes in part from Coursera.  Also from the new JPE, if a Spanish region has a disproportionate share of lottery winners, it is more likely to opt for the incumbent.

1 Econ is slow September 1, 2016 at 2:38 pm

The research didn’t come from Coursera. The researcher went to Coursera from grad school. Econ just takes forever to publish papers…

2 bellisaurius September 1, 2016 at 2:47 pm

Is this why blockbusters are for summer? Less bad weather?

3 bellisaurius September 1, 2016 at 2:48 pm

I feel like I just stated the obvious. cuz I did.

4 8 September 1, 2016 at 3:02 pm

The positive shock comes from rainy days and heat waves.

It seems Hollywood is moving away from the summer blockbuster and carving up the calendar. Marvel seems to release a superhero movie every May. Of the top 10 movies so far this year, every month is represented with an opening, except January.

Kids being out of school seems like the best reason for it in the past, along with air conditioning.

5 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly September 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

“Kids being out of school” is one of those explanations that makes intuitive sense but doesn’t seem to stand up to much critical though. Most films do the bulk of their business on weekends, when kids are out of school during both the academic year and during the summer. Additionally, “kids” at the younger end are completely outside the target demographic for a lot of summer blockbusters, and even teenagers are a more peripheral demographic for some.

Realistically, the summer blockbuster season just seems like a piece of contrived Hollywood wisdom that continues to guide decision-making by nothing more than its own intertia, despite all of the recent evidence that however true it may have been once, it’s no longer a thing (most notably Deadpool, which is the highest-grossing film in the X-Men franchise despite being the only released outside of the summer blockbuster season).

6 msgkings September 1, 2016 at 2:58 pm

That plus teenagers are out of school

7 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly September 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Film houses were some of the earliest adopters of air conditioning systems, which doubtless played a role in promoting summer as the prime movie season.

8 rayward September 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

“The more some people go, the more other people want to go too.” If mimicry explains so much of human behavior, then can it be possible for anyone to have an original idea? The more frequently Cowen references mimicry (and indirectly Rene Girard), the more I am convinced that nobody has an original idea, not me, and not Cowen. Silicon Valley confirms it.

9 msgkings September 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Your DAILY, REPEATED comments about Silicon Valley indeed prove that at least you do not have any original ideas.

10 rayward September 1, 2016 at 4:27 pm

I don’t claim that Silicon Valley is mimicry on steroids is my original idea, it’s the idea, repeated often (irony – mimicry – intended), of many of those who have become very rich by investing in Silicon Valley start-ups.

11 why i like the comments here September 1, 2016 at 10:55 pm

i like the comments here because there is is enough repetition regarding different subjects to help one imagine what many commenters would say if they said all they could say the best way they could say it about all the things they care about . From this point of view mimicry is just the background noise that hides the individuality that so many frequent commenters show or almost show. A world with less mimicry might be like Gilligan’s Island but a Gilligan’s Island where the professor was too smart for Caltech, the skipper was pals with Spruance and Nimitz, and Gilligan was a guy some big rock band wanted as their fifth member but couldn’t get because he was having too much fun pretending to be a castaway beatnik with a comedic heart of gold. (As for Ginger and Mary Ann and the Howells, they could hardly be improved on…such are the fates of the rich and the young and the beautiful on classic situation comedies). As a Christian in these apocalyptic times, I would prefer a website with a more pro-life focus, of course, but if I commented on such a website my comments would be superfluous preaching to the choir. And at least the likes of Rene Girard get a shout out from time to time here. “When again the earth shall return to chaos, and all that men have wrought be hidden beneath the waters – the waters again will reflect the face of God.” Tyutchev, 1829, translated by John Cournos. A crabbier thought than the actual truth, but well said.

12 why i like the comments here September 1, 2016 at 11:42 pm

By the way if you don’t know Gilligans Island is like the most famous sitcom with the least chance to be made into a movie (F-Troop and Hogan’s Heroes are two others) (although there is still hope for a version of Hogans Heroes where Klink is played by the uptight guy from the Big Bang theory but it is set in outer space in a science fiction world that has nothing to do with ours) – then you might wonder why the previous comment found itself on a movies thread.

13 Doug September 1, 2016 at 5:38 pm

Simple prescription would be to offer people discounted movie tickets if they share their status on Facebook.

14 JWatts September 1, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Discounted tickets to future movies if they get a certain number of Likes on Facebook for a comment about a current film. And the studios could gradually raise the number of Likes required as the practice became widespread.

15 Steve Sailer September 1, 2016 at 5:54 pm

Yes, the Big Opening Weekend model of a shared experience is fun.

It has recently been spreading to other countries like China and Russia.

In the mid-20th Century, huge opening weekend rollouts were rare because copies of 35 mm film prints were expensive to make and expensive to ship (they are heavy), so new movies followed a trickle-down pattern with movies slowly spreading from big cities to small towns over the course of a year or so as the physical prints were shipped around. Around the time of “Jaws,” studios started paying for making >1,000 copies of prints ahead of release so they could buy national advertising.

16 ricardo September 1, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Netflixetc has pretty much destroyed the “shared experience” aspect of TV (save live sports, hence perhaps their value). Maybe there should be a feature that allows people to sync stream-viewing, ironic though that would be? Or even just to get a sense of how who else is streaming Axe Cop or Penny Dreadful at the same time as me.

Spotify does something roughly analogous when it tells you where the other listeners are. Eg today I learned that the 3 or 4 other listeners to the Maddox Bros & Rose (this month) were in Manhattan, Milwaukee and Long Beach. I felt connected!

17 (Not That) Bill O'Reilly September 1, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Netflixetc has pretty much destroyed the “shared experience” aspect of TV

Has it? Certainly, one cannot engage in a mass livetweet conversation about Daredevil in real time the way we might see for, say, Game of Throne (which itself has a diminished live audience from HBOGo), but that sort of mass participation barely had time to exist before Netflix anyway, while the on-demand model makes it easier to turn television into an interpersonal social event through things like viewing parties (sticking with HBOGo, my brother’s most-kept weekly appointment is his neighborhood Thrones watch night, which never starts at 10pm on the dot). And the relevant online communities do a good job of timing the discussions to allow people to digest the show and begin participating at their own pace.

So sure, I won’t have the abstract knowledge that I am watching the the Defenders along with the rest of America when it comes out next year, but it’s not like that knowledge really enhanced my viewing experience of the series finale of Friends anyway.

18 ricardo September 1, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Maybe ‘destroyed’ was an overstatement.

By ‘shared experience’ I wasn’t talking about tweetstorms specifically, but the general timing/coordination that live TV provided. You would all be looking forward to a show at the same time (and could talk about the anticipation); when you were watching it the knowledge that everyone else was watching the same thing concurrently made it more special; the next day you could all talk about it. All of this ran in parallel with other media (newspaper articles, etc).

[Perhaps I’m showing my age, or am just bitter that I watch GoT on Bluray and so am effectively a year behind; avoiding spoilers is tricky.]

19 Chris September 1, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Ah yes. I remember quite well in the seventies and eighties waiting for the hot new movie to arrive in a local theater so I could finally see it. And since many movie theaters back then could only show a few movies (many only had 2 separate rooms), often there were only a few places you could go to once they were in region. Depending on the movie, my family might go to this one town 15 minutes drive east, or another to the west, or 30 minutes south. In a few rare cases we even had to go to a suburb (I grew up in rural country 90 minutes from a large city). In summer, it might even mean needing to go to a drive thru. Now everything is a multiplex.

20 Daniel Weber September 1, 2016 at 7:52 pm

There’s a reason I like listening to the radio better than a personalized playlist. I know other people, somewhere, are also listening to the same thing. Ads still suck, though.

21 Anon7 September 1, 2016 at 10:22 pm

Yet another trivial study by social scientists. Surely JPE has articles of more significance that it could publish.

22 Thanatos Savehn September 1, 2016 at 11:55 pm

…. time to rename this blog “Marginal Evidence (is okey dokey)”.

23 Willitts September 2, 2016 at 9:30 am

Blame it on the rain.

24 Richard (an academic) September 2, 2016 at 10:58 am

“Instrumenting for early viewership with plausibly exogenous weather shocks captured in LASSO-chosen instruments….” In one laughably hideous tangle of verbiage, that phrase, ladies and gentlemen, shows why most academics, no matter how well-credentialed, are too freakish to be trusted.

25 Jenny September 24, 2016 at 4:58 pm

Thanks for sharing your views

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