Hollywood & Forecasting Mistakes: Myth of the Ticket-Selling Movie Star
By the way this concept is addressed in Art DeVany’s book, Hollywood Economics (which Taleb and many others have recommended).
Great Introduction (via Reid Rosefelt @ My Life As A Blog)
In logic class, I and my fellow ill-fated classmates were taught a series of formulas called “tautologies,” which are always true. There is no possibility of negating them. Ever. One is called Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc. This means that it is always a fallacy to assume that because one thing happened, followed by another thing, then the first thing caused the next. In other words: if I clap my hands just before dawn, that’s not why the sun came up.
I will quickly apply Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc to the current controversy surrounding the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and then, as this is a movie blog, get onto my primary topic, “The Myth of the Ticket-Selling Movie Star.”
As to the former, I believe a lot of people of various political persuasions are coming around to the idea that there’s no evidence that Jared Lee Loughlin was motivated by politics and uncivil dialogue. But the logic of Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc takes us a step further than that and says that even if he regularly watched Limbaugh fan and watched FOX News, that alone is not enough to make the assumption that that was responsible for making him do what he did.
One of the things I usually like about Bill Maher is that he calls out the absurdity of people who don’t believe in evolution, global warming, or having a President who was born in the U.S. But in this case, like many politicians and commentators, he followed his preconceptions rather than logic, and blamed the right wing. In this he mirrors the illogic of conservatives who proclaim that President Bush kept the country safe. These things fly in the face ofPost Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, as do thousands of other suppositions that are the bedrock of conventional thought.
Okay, now I will proceed, with grandiose rhetorical overstatement, to “The Myth of the Ticket-Selling Movie Star.”
A Ticket-Selling movie star is thought by many to possess a persona that is so appealing that people will go see a movie just because they are in it. If the actor doesn’t play the persona, then it often doesn’t work. Angelina Jolie’s star persona is said to be in action roles, and the evidence supports this: “A Mighty Heart” (9 M), “Changeling,” ($36M), versus “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” ($186M), “The Good Shepherd” ($60M), “Wanted” ($134M), “Salt,” ($118M), and “The Tourist” ($62M). Likewise, nobody is surprised when “Greenberg” fails to become a hit simply because Ben Stiller is in it. While the correlations of genuine movie star persona to grosses doesn’t always work, but it certainly happens enough so that most people make the reasonable judgment that one caused the other.
Reasonable, yes, and very possible true. But not logical.