Not Getting It

Two things I saw/read in the past two days are just clear examples of people Not Getting It.

The most recent was this Salon piece on the Oscars™®patent pending, LLC, and how "boring" it was, mainly because Lord of the Rings swept, but also because the show was family-friendly. Fair enough, though why anybody watches the Oscars is beyond me in the first place so I can’t comment.

But this comment was the kicker:

Actually, I think the horrendous cash success of The Passion of The Mel was responsible for all possible fun being extracted from this year’s ceremony — cranky old Oscar figured out that most of America hates sex, dancing, gay people, ethnic people, ribald or drug-related humor, and opinionated or irreverent takes on current political events, so the golden man decided to show us just how well-behaved and self-censoring he be; Hollywood fidgeted like kids in Sunday school, and us unwashed heathen out here in TV land had to resort to binge drinking.

Well, sure, the success of The Snuffing of the Jesus is doubtless sending shockwaves through Hollywood, who evidently haven’t been looking at the receipts that NASCAR gets for the past 20 years. But, c’mon, ribald and ethnic humor have enemies that are much closer to home. Ring! Political Correctness called, and it wants its vacuous Hollywood starlets to denounce making fun of the homeless again. The buildup of umbrage at all humor has been a car bought, paid for, and driven by the Left for the last 30 years. The Right has just successfully managed to hitchhike and convince the Left that it can drive for a while. Apart from Fox News, the Right hasn’t even bought any gas.

The other big “Duh” moment was Sunday night before I went out to dinner during the Show I Am Not Officially Licensed to Name, when Andy Rooney demonstrated that simply living on Earth longer than Strom Thurmond does not bring wisdom. He was whining per usual, this time about commercials before movies. That’s a trend that was imported from Europe, the bastion of all that’s culturally significant, such as Survivor. And it was started four or five years ago. But hey, professional journalism is showing us it’s Johnny-on-the-spot and soon they’ll call the 2000 election.

So Andy proceeds to call up the seventh-largest theater chain in the nation and ask one of the top guys there why they don’t do it. The guy explains that he doesn’t think it will bring in as much revenue as it will lose and thinks that, given a choice, people will come to his theaters since they don’t show commercials.

So the seventh-largest chain in the country has figured out that this cheeses people off, and in a customer-centric business it’s not a good idea to cheese your customers off. That point was made, among others, in 1776 by Adam Smith (no relation that I know of) and is obvious, though often missed. Does Andy Rooney confidently predict the death of commercials before films and encourage other chains to do the same?

Noooooo…Andy says the words that have done more to encourage petty and not-so-petty tyrants since the first caveman bonked another on the head and was called statesmanlike for it, “There oughtta be a law…” Now, he didn’t call for a ban on commercials–I guess too ironic even for a guy admittedly appearing on a show entitled 60 Minutes, 15 of which are commercials–but he called for a law that says that only the time the movie actually begins can be advertised.

Um…Andy, you just demonstrated that, long before the lumbering leviathan of Government can react, the market has already begun to redress the problem. The SEVENTH-LARGEST chain in the USA does not show commercials. If people want to watch commercials, they’ll go to a chain with them. If they don’t, they’ll go to a chain without. It’s actually more democratic than democracy, and it’s called…shhhhh…the market. I know it’s a dirty word (see point above about who’s really been censoring America), but, c’mon, you just demonstrated how quickly it works, and how much faster than government it responds.

Here’s another hint, Andy–most people are smarter than you. They don’t show up to see all the commercials, except when they think it will be crowded and want a good seat. They already know there are 15 minutes of commercials and previews, and adjust their schedule accordingly. If people who think NASCAR is entertaining can figure this out, then surely a senile old reporter could stop transcribing press releases to flesh out his copy long enough to do the math.

4 thoughts on “Not Getting It

  1. Dang kids with your computers today. I have to play an annoying old curmodgeon once a week on television. If you’re going to take pot shots at the 30 minutes of work I do once a week I’m going to have to bore you with my stories about the depression, and how good things were back in the day, and how annoyed I am by all the different kinds of light switches they put on lamps now a days.


  2. Well, the point won’t really be proven until the seventh-largest chain can demonstrate that their business hypothesis (that ads drive away more revenue than they generate) really holds.

    I do, however, agree with your point about how people will try to schedule around the commercials. This is the only thing I liked about the recent class-action suit that was filed against the other chains on this issue — the remedy the plaintiffs were seeking was not for the chains to be forced to stop running ads, but instead for chains that chose to run ads to have to list the actual starting time *of the film* in their advertising, along with the starting time of the pre-film ads. Apparently this is how they do it in Europe and it works OK there.

    It seemed to me that this would be a decent solution for everybody — consumers get the info they need to make informed decisions about when to show up, theater owners still get to make the choice as to whether or not to run ads, and (as you suggest) the free market sorts out what the ideal is. It made so much sense, in fact, that I never heard anything about it again. Oh well.


  3. Actually the point is that the market responds faster than government and provides choices for your choosing pleasure. Now those choices are not guaranteed to survive, but if there’s a significant need, the need is at least somewhat met.

    Contrast this with Rooney’s call for government regulation. He’s just raising the hue and cry now. Figure another two years for it to make its way through Congress. So by 2007, you might see the first regulations being implemented at the theater.

    Additionally, you can choose outright to view or not to view commercials. Now, if very few people choose this, you’ll see no commercials at places like arthouse cinemas. But if enough choose them, you’ll see them at many theaters, and various annoying friends who insist on going to the theater further away because it doesn’t have commercials.

    You’re making the mistake of conflating a solution with a one-size-fits-all solution. Unless everybody has the same policies, you don’t see a solution. In the market, there is no ONE solution, but still more people are satisfied more of the time and faster than any bureaucracy can react.

    I mean, really, would Al Gore have decreed Straight Plan for the Gay Man to premiere less than a year after Queer Eye for the Straight Guy became a hit? Bush is too busy trying to make sure none of them start playing house.


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