Thursday, September 08, 2005

Medved Infects Epstein?

Edward Jay Epstein's essays in Slate on movies and commerce are generally interesting, even though they often seem to miss the bigger picture. But his latest uses bad stats, trusting a faulty study that I've only seen used (or misused) previously by Michael Medved.

Epstein claims "[t]he most prolonged decline in Hollywood's history [was] from 1963 to 1973, in which the weekly audience dropped from 43.5 million to 16 million..." This is simply false. He also states yearly declines have been the norm for the past 56 years. Also false. Actually, there was a huge, near-continuous drop from the high point of the mid-40s to the mid-60s, as television was introduced and became more popular, followed by a stabilization just when Epstein claims there was the biggest decline.

Average weekly attendance dropped from 84 million in 1944 to 47 million in 1954 to 20 million in 1964. Starting in the mid-60s, the numbers started flattening out. In 1963, the weekly audience was not 43.5 million, it was 22 million. The lowest point was 1971, when attendance was 16 million. By the late 70s and 80s, attendance was back to 20 million or more per year, often matching the 22 million of 1963.

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