Movie prices

Interesting post by Derek Thompson discussing the fact that all movies are priced the same.  Doesn’t really make a lot of economic sense when you think about it:

Like tens of millions of Americans, I have paid money to see Mission: Impossible, which made $130 million in the last two weeks, and I have not paid any money to see Young Adult, which has made less than $10 million over the same span. Nobody is surprised or impressed by the discrepancy. The real question is: If demand is supposed to move prices, why isn’t seeing Young Adult much cheaper than seeing Mission: Impossible?

There’s a lot of interesting discussion of dynamic pricing in a movie theater context and 5 suggestions on why we nonetheless have uniform pricing.  I found these two most interesting:

3) Price can repel as easily as it attracts, because it’s a signal of quality. If you’re a theater showing one movie for $6, one movie for $10, and another for $12, perhaps fewer people will see the $6 movie because they assume it’s garbage.

4) Cheaper tickets lead to higher policing costs. I’m a cheapskate, so I might buy a ticket to see cheap, cheap Iron Lady and sneak into Sherlock Holmes. This would create a fascinating incentive for art-house studios to release smaller, cheaper films the same weekend as blockbusters, knowing that thousands of canny consumers might buy fake tickets to their show to sneak into the more expensive blockbuster.

Would be interesting to see highly-monitored movie theaters.  Though, shouldn’t cost that much to simply station an usher at each auditorium.  Though not particularly related to this main discussion, I was quite intrigued by this chart of average weekly attendance through the year.  Not coincidentally, I talked to a bunch of people this week who had seen more than their fair share of movies recently.

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Santorum’s near-win: timing is everything

Ezra captured my thinking on Rick Santorum’s success pretty much as I was thinking it.  In short, timing was everything:

Before Santorum took the lead in the Tea Party primary, Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul topped the polls. But for various reasons, each of them proved ultimately unacceptable…

That left Santorum and Jon Huntsman. And Huntsman wasn’t competing in Iowa. So it really left Santorum. And it left him at the exact right moment — with enough time for his surge to build momentum, but not so much time that he came under real scrutiny or had to deliver high-stakes debate performances or withstand attacks from Romney’s super-PACs. Santorum might just have been the next not-Romney, but he was the not-Romney at the moment that being the not-Romney actually mattered.  [emphasis mine]

Viewed that way, however, Santorum’s finish doesn’t say much about his ideology, or his campaign skills, or his endorsements. Quite the opposite, in fact. In a race where a large number of anti-Romney voters were desperate to find a candidate, Santorum was unable to attract significant support until the very end, when the anti-Romney vote literally had nowhere else to go. If he had been a better candidate, he would have crested earlier.

I got to admit to being somewhat surprised by the Santorum Surge– he really is a very weak candidate.  But, the logic of the situation certainly seems to have simply worked in his behalf.  The far right needed somebody to vote for and everybody else had been rejected.  I honestly thought Perry would get a harder second look and am somewhat surprised that he didn’t.  Or, maybe I just did not appreciate how badly he played in Iowa.  Either way, Santorum has had his moment. Maybe it will last a little longer, but my guess is that when I teach Campaigns & Elections four years from now, most students will have little if any idea who he is.

Obama plays hardball

I hate expressions on variations of “shows/has some balls” etc. as it just seems so sexist.  Women cannot be tough?  But, I cannot think of another that more sums up Obama saying “screw it” to the obstructionist Republican Senate and going and ahead and making a recess appointment of Richard Cordray despite the fact that Republicans have used a legislative trick (invented by Democrats) to keep the Senate technically in session.  The Republican position on this is just so offensive– we don’t like your law that created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (i.e., we want to make sure that financial institutions of all sorts can completely screw consumers with no checks)– so we’re not going to approve any director no matter what.  The problem is, according to the law,  the CFPB doesn’t actually fully function in its role to protect consumers without an actual director. In effect, Republicans have been using this to nullify a legally and appropriately passed law that they just don’t happen to like.  I fail to see anyway that is acceptable in a democracy.

I really don’t see Obama facing any negative repercussions for this.  Sure, Republicans are mad and some of the knee-jerk bipartisan media types may give him a hard time, but its certainly glad to see he’s no longer pretending that everything needs to be bipartisan when the Republicans absolutely refuse to play nicely.

Photo of the day

Really nice set of Afghanistan photos via Alan Taylor.  I especially enjoyed these two:

A villager makes his way across a bridge that connects Qasamabad, Afghanistan, to a school in the village of Baghban in Daykundi province, on December 10, 2011. Coalition special operations forces evaluated the condition of the bridge to explore the possibility of making improvements to provide students with a safer way to cross over the river below.(US Navy/Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Leistikow) #  

Grover, a character from “Sesame Street” walks with Afghans at the French Culture Center in Kabul, on November 30, 2011. Children in Afghanistan are now able to start their education as millions of preschoolers around in the world have: by watching “Sesame Street” on TV. (Reuters/Omar Sobhani) # 

I’m a sucker for scary bridges and dramatic juxtapositions.

8 votes

Wow– Romney beat Paul by 8 votes!  What are the odds of that.  Damn that is just wonderfully, improbably close.  I wonder how that compares to Florida in 2000, percentage wise.  I love how this means Romney is “the winner” just because we have to have a “winner.”  If ever there was a tie.  Now, if this actually meant Romney received more delegates or something, that would be one thing, but not at all.  Kevin Drum, briefly summarizes what’s actually going on here:

I didn’t know that. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. That Des Moines Register piece that I linked to earlier, for example, describes the process this way:

  1. Pick a candidate.
  2. Votes tallied.
  3. Elect delegates.
  4. Elect alternates.

Tricky! I didn’t quite catch that “Votes tallied” really had nothing to do with “Elect delegates.” But apparently it doesn’t. You cast your vote, the tally gets reported to the press, and then if you feel like sticking around to elect delegates you can do that. Or not. But your vote doesn’t really matter unless you do.

Pretty good system for choosing a leader of the free world, isn’t it?

Really curious to see how Santorum polls in NH in the next few days.  Romney has got to be one happy man.

Rich people and compassion

Rich people are different from the rest of us– they are less compassionate.  A former student sent me this link about a recent study comparing the personality traits of persons by income categories:

In a study just published in the straightforwardly named journal Emotion, psychologist Jennifer Stellar sought to determine the empathic capacities of a sample group of 300 college students, who had been hand-selected for maximum economic diversity…

In the first of three experiments, she had 148 of her subjects fill out a detailed questionnaire reporting how often and how intensely they experience emotions such as joy, love, compassion and awe. She also had them agree or disagree with statements like “I often notice people who need help.” …

When the numbers on these inventories were crunched, Stellar and her colleagues found no meaningful personality differences among the students that could be attributable to income except one: across the board, the lower the subjects’ family income, the higher their score on compassion.

This was actually a pretty robust finding, as there were additional studies that included experiments that actually measured biological responses to emotional stimuli.  And before you feel too good about yourself, the upper middle class were lacking in compassion.  I’m not entirely satisfied with the conclusion:

So does this mean the rich really are the unfeeling boors the lower half say they are? Well yes — and no. A low score on the compassion scale doesn’t mean a lack of capacity for the feeling, Stellar argues. It may just mean a lack of experience observing — and tending to — the hardship others.

Not that I have a better explanation myself, but I’m thinking there’s got to be more to this.  Would love to see a study that compares people who used to be poor, but now are rich, as that would definitely address the hypothesis in the above paragraph.

Another question I have, is just how closely does the personality characteristic of compassion translate into political beliefs.  Presumably, the less compassionate would be less supportive of welfare, social programs, etc.  That could certainly explain a lot.

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