The NYTimes have put up an interesting visualization of the Netflix rental patterns of 2009’s most rented films broken down into neighborhoods in a dozen US cities. It’s fun to play around with and underscores a few things we probably already had inklings about:
- Very few people care about “Mad Men” outside of NYC and other hipster-heavy cities like Minneapolis.
- Despite our famous love of dogs, New Yorkers clearly have better things to watch than “Marley & Me.”
- New Yorkers are unfamiliar with malls and therefore have no interest in renting “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
- The popularity of Tyler Perry films is a surefire indication of the concentration of African-Americans in any given neighborhood.
Basically, relevance matters. People tend to want to watch characters demographically similar to themselves. That’s why the film “Last Chance Harvey” about aging boomers finding love is significantly more popular in the demographically older suburbs, while “Obsessed,” a “Fatal Attraction” remake starring Beyoncé is popular only in the Bronx, Newark and parts of outer Brooklyn where many African-Americans live. Might sound like an argument for how depressingly narrow-minded we are, but then again you have to consider that one of the most frequently rented films of last year was foreign (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and that the popularity of “Milk” was by no means limited to gay neighborhoods, to say nothing of the non-teens secretly renting “Twilight.” So what have we learned? There’s something for everyone. A really great movie will sell regardless of ethnic/racial considerations. Everyone loves vampires and anything Brangelina touches.