Sunday, January 10, 2010

Netflix Patterns: Everyone Loves Button

Have you ever wondered what other people in your neighborhood might be renting on DVD? I know when I see someone holding a red Netflix envelope I always wish I had x-ray vision to see which disc was inside. The NYT have a fascinating map about rentals by region in 2009. Apparently The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the #1 most rented overall. But it's fun to flip through various cities to see how a movies popularity shifts from region to region and even zip codes. For example, in my neighborhood (Harlem) Doubt, ...Button and The Soloist (???) were the top dvds. Weirdness.

The Coen Bros Burn After Reading is popular in NYC but even more popular just across the East River in Brooklyn. Deep deep red in one spot so I clicked over to confirm: hipster Williamsburg. Of course!

Zeéeeee's latest "movie" New in Town was a funny example. It was pretty unpopular in any urban areas but totally unpopular in San Francisco and Oakland... Much more rental friendly in Minnesota which happens to be the very place found in the movie that teaches city girl Renée how to let her flat-ironed big city hair loose.

Mostly these maps just confirmed what we already know. Mainstream hits are popular in suburbs and divisive artier films are much more popular in densely populated areas. Take the world's most improbable double feature: Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Rachel Getting Married. They're almost polar opposites.

Practically no one on the island of Manhattan cared to rent the comedy. Is that because we don't have malls? (No, the "Mall of Manhattan" doesn't count). But parts of New Jersey were totally into it. Those same parts were not about to put up with Kym's emotionally complex shenanigans in Rachel Getting Married. They weren't having it!

Neurotic city-dwellers, however, embraced the awkward toasting and raised their glasses to Anne Hathaway's killer performance.

What do you suspect people are watching where you live? And are you as nosey as I am to know what influences your neighbor's movie choices?


Bryan said...

Sometimes it seems like people in the cities are simply more appreciative of artsy stuff, but to be fair, I know a lot of people who live in the middle of nowhere but who still love the great, tiny films. They just never have access to them (or they become available, like 7 years later).

Tony said...

Yeah, I live in a small town and I'd definitely expect stuff like Mall Cop to be really popular here. I'm the guy that tries to get people to watch artsier films. Everybody I know is shocked when they find out that I regularly watch films with subtitles!

My whole family has been going nuts over The Blind Side (which I did not like), while I've been going crazy for The Hurt Locker (which they thought was 'okay'). Both of my parents actually fell asleep during The Hurt Locker!

It's tough to be a film buff in a small town! That goes for music and TV shows like The Wire or even Dollhouse.

Rebecca said...

Oh, I am not surprised that 'Milk' was number one in most areas of Seattle.

KTibbs617 said...

As if I wasn't already embarassed enough to live in my town just north of Boston...

My only defense for Paul Blart st #7 is that it was filmed at a local mall. Nope, I take itback, even THAT isn't an excuse.

Thank God I live only 20 minutes from a fabulous independent theater in Cambridge - which I'm generally forced to frequent alone. I prefer to most times. Many people I know are (and I quote) "So upset that I haven't gotten to see the Alvin movie yet!!!". Please pay me no attention while I bang my head against the wall repeatedly until you find someone else to discuss this with, or I pass out - whichever comes first.

These are also the people that consider Jersey Shore entertainment. Ugh!

Seeking Amy said...

On my Netflix acccount under Local Favorites (for the town right next to me called Battle Ground, since ours is too small to get any sort of worthwhile statistical data probably) are among others Sunshine, Nothing But the Truth, and Defiance. I find that a rather interesting bunch because there's no real correlation I can make with the people there. 500 Days of Summer is number one over there now, everyone loves it.

As far as my household, i've been on a Zhang Yimou run and surprisingly my family's responded to it positively, my mom especially loved To Live. I've also been exposing her to Almodovar (She loves Volver and Women on the Verge.. so far) and am debating showing her Bad Education, but am really nervous about her reaction.

Michael B. said...

So I don't think any Zip Code will beat 10003, cause in order:

Rachel Getting Married
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Wrestler
Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Revolutionary road
Mad Men Season One Disc One

Christine said...

My local favorites (in the Berkshires)have a surprising number of older films:

1) The Dead (the James Joyce adaptation from the 80s)
2) Young at Heart
3) The Chorus
4) Dangerous Beauty
5) To Catch a Thief
6) After the Wedding
7) Curb Your Enthusiasm
8) Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
9) Taking Woodstock
10) Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Along with some really oddball things (The Shining at 11, No 1. Ladies' Detective Agency Season 1 at 14)

OtherRobert said...

Stupid rich image conscious people ruining my town's rental averages toward whatever the last big Oscar pictures were: Benjamin Button, Doubt, Slumdog, Changeling, Wrestler, Milk, Body of Lies, Gran Torino, Rachel Getting Married, Seven Pounds. Partly, it's because I'm within 40 minutes of NYC and the tastes can be pretty similar. It's just I've never met anyone in my town that actually likes these films. They watch them because they think it's the respectable thing to do. Their eyes go blank when you start asking them what they thought of x, y, or z aspect of the film or performance a, b, or c by a non-A-list actor. Meanwhile, they're the same people who will go see Transformers 2 on opening weekend and rarely go to something that's not destined to be a big blockbuster. At least I know my students are supporting smaller films and genre pictures. They let me know what they've seen all the time and constantly make me proud.

Ben said...

I think there's a bit of confusion. The NY Times maps are different than the lists you get on Netflix. The NYTimes maps show the rank of the top 100 rentals for the year. The lists if you type in your address on Netflix show which movies are relatively more popular in your zip code than the rest of the country.

So for example, I'm in Washington, DC. People here watch more foreign films, more West Wing (no surprise!), and more Wire than the rest of the country. But my Top 10 zip code on the map is still many of the same suspects (Milk, Rachel Getting Married, Benjamin Button, etc.)


but the NYTimes maps of Netflix use go by zipcode too. So it amounts to much of the same thing.

I do think the subtle differences are interesting from place to place but on the other hand... you'd have to have everyone who rents movies to be subscribed to Netflix to see the truest patterns. This is already a narrowed idea of what people watch. It's What People Who Have Netflix watch.

antonio said...

wait before Zelly gets her groove back with My own love song.