Theaters, Asymmetrical Information, and Star Wars 7 (Part II)            

Last week I talked about how movie studios make their money, why the constant price of theater tickets is a very bizarre phenomenon and then I told everyone I’d explain why, a year before its currently scheduled release, JJ Abrams has been ‘leaking’ information to the media about the upcoming release of Star Wars 7. I promise this is all related somewhere down the line.

Theaters charge the same price for a ticket, regardless of movie, and movies can vary both in quality and cost to produce. Let’s imagine for a minute that you show up to the movie theater, without knowing which movie you want to see except that you want to see some movie. You look up at the board, and there are two movies playing soon. One of those movies is Let’s Be Cops, and the other is Gone Girl. You know that the price for both movies is the same, so as a savvy customer who can only buy a certain number of movie tickets a year, you try to figure out which movie you’d prefer. The only problem is, you don’t know which one you’ll like! Searching for some way to differentiate between the two movies, you look to the box-office attendant and ask him ‘which movie is better?’ He replies that some reviewer said that ‘Let’s Be Cops’ is the “most fun you’ll have all year,” and that you really ought to go see it. You, trusting the expert-backed declaration of the box-office attendant, take him up on the suggestion. You sit down and watch ‘Let’s Be Cops,’ but as it turns out, you only sort of like the movie. It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it definitely wasn’t worth the full cost of the ticket. You’re disappointed, and you know that NEXT time someone says that a movie is “the most fun you’ll have all year” you might be less likely to believe them.

Even so, earlier this year you saw another movie you knew nothing about called “Pacific Rim,” and you really liked it! In fact, had you known how good the movie was, you would have been willing to pay more for the ticket than the theater charged you. So you decide to give the theater another shot: it’s a rainy day and everyone knows you have nothing better to do anyway. You see three new movies on the board that are playing soon, ‘Let’s Be Cops 2,’ ‘Pacific Rim 2,’ and ‘The Ant Man.’ You know that you liked Pacific Rim, so you will probably like Pacific Rim 2, and you know you didn’t like Let’s Be Cops, so you probably won’t like Let’s Be Cops 2, but what do you make of Ant Man? Well, you know that it’s a movie, and based on your past experience, movies could be as good as Pacific Rim, as bad as Let’s Be Cops, or maybe even somewhere between the two. Since you think Pacific Rim 2 is probably going to be like Pacific Rim; which you enjoyed, and you have no basis for judgment on ‘The Ant Man,’ yet the two cost the same, you go for the surer bet and go see the sequel. This is part of the reason why there are so many sequels around, because people generally prefer to go see a movie that they know they’ll probably like than one that they don’t know about if they have to pay a single price for both without knowing the quality of the unknown film.

Now, finally, we make it back to Star Wars. I’ll start off by saying that there’s a pretty clear idea about what most of the established Star Wars fan base thinks about the most recent trilogy, also known as the prequels. This feeling is clearly demonstrated in the incredibly popular, scathing Plinkett Star Wars reviews (NSFW) and is talked about extensively in the documentary “The People vs. George Lucas.” Now, I won’t pretend to know how good the new Star Wars movie will be, but I will say that there are a significant number of people who are extremely unhappy with the quality of the new movies when compared to the old ones, and that those people may opt out of seeing any more Star Wars movies. Even with a new director, new actors and new writers, people still worry that these new films will be as disappointing as the last set. So what can the people who are working to make a high quality film do to overcome a potentially bad reputation? They can start providing you information as to what kind of movie they’re making. They can send signals that show the audience this WON’T be another movie that involves an acrobatic yoga or a borderline racist cartoon rabbit. This one is like the older movies, where the sets are hand crafted, the special effects aren’t drowned in CGI, and maybe, just maybe, it has a little bit of the Star Wars soul that fans have craved for so long.

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