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April 29, 2005

Fact Attack

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Some facts that caught my attention from recent issues of The Economist:

  • The computer game Halo 2 was launched in November of last year. It took in more than $100 million on its first day. This is a bigger first-day gross than any movie has ever managed.

  • Gen Yers (people born between 1980 and 1994) are now old enough to be buying cars for themselves. "They make 40% more complaints than their parents do about the same car."

  • 3/4 of people who show up in Ford showrooms have already done some car research online.

  • 75% of American cellphone-buyers do their research online. Fewer than 5% actually make their cellphone purchase online, though.

  • Digital video recorders (such as Tivos) have a dramatic effect on people's TV-watching habits. Owners of DVRs do more than 60% of their TV-watching off the hard drive, and skip 92% of the ads on the recorded programs they watch.

  • In 1960, South Korea had only one telephone per 300 people. Today, more than 90% of Korean households have a fixed-line phone, and 3/4ths of South Koreans carry cellphones.

  • America's national savings rate is at its lowest in 70 years. Americans now borrow from foreigners at a rate of more than 6% of GDP each year.

  • 39% of Americans identify themselves as Independents. 31% call themselves Democrats, and 30% call themselves Republicans.

The Economist's website is here.



posted by Michael at April 29, 2005


Interesting factoid about Halo 2's sales compared to movie ticket sales, but keep in mind that a copy of the game is probably about the same price as four or five movie admissions.

Posted by: Peter on April 29, 2005 9:36 PM

Gen Yers (people born between 1980 and 1994) are now old enough to be buying cars for themselves. "They make 40% more complaints than their parents do about the same car."

Not me. I just want the dang thing to run without blowing a tire.

Posted by: sya on April 29, 2005 11:00 PM

" 3/4 of people who show up in Ford showrooms have already done some car research online."

Just shows to go ya, us Ford drivers are s-m-a-r-t-t!

Posted by: Cowtown Pattie on April 29, 2005 11:09 PM

Peter's comment about the cost of a Halo 2 game being several multiples of a movie ticket sparked a thought that occurs to me about once a year. To wit: why do all movies cost the same?

I mean, not all cars cost the same. Not all bottles of wine cost the same. I would think movies for specialty tastes, or even really popular movies, should charge some kind of premium. If people didn't want to shell out, oh, maybe $15 - $20 for a movie, maybe you could justify it by giving them a DVD of the film with their movie ticket (such a DVD costing the movie company a buck or so.)

Isn't it odd that nobody bucks this trend, even though it might make all sorts of niche movie markets profitable.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 30, 2005 12:36 AM

Oh, and as for America's savings rate--gee, do you think our wonderful tax policy could have something to do with it? Let's tax corporate profits once with corporate income tax, twice with personal income tax, and then, if reinvested, again and again! Meanwhile, we've decided to subsidize non-savers with Social Security and Medicare. And, of course, lets make our personal income tax not only progressive, but in effect insanely progressive if viewed as a tax on potential savings--effectively taxing income (after necessary consumption for items like food, shelter, transportation) at rates of 75%, 90%, whatever.

Well, we've certainly mastered the policy of dissavings, all right.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 30, 2005 12:43 AM

By the way, the "national savings rate" and the "rate at which we borrow from foreigners" are only tangentially related. The former (if it is the personal savings rate) is the percentage of household income that goes toward investment or (if it is just the savings rate) the percentage of national income that goes toward investment. The "rate at which we borrow from foreigners" of 6% is just the flip side of the trade deficit, the flow of capital into the US because we buy more imports than we sell exports.

Our low level of personal savings and high trade deficits have been around since before the Bush I administration....

Posted by: nolo commentre on April 30, 2005 2:22 AM

You know what my feeble non-economist, non-wonky, non-pundity brain never gets? (Ok, lots, but let's continue). If you have a country where people have a fair amount of spending cash, and things are relatively inexpensive, and we don't make it too hard to import things, then wouldn't we always have a trade deficit of this sort?

*I have this visual of my best friend who is Italian shopping with abandon and glee in Marshalls! Yes, Marshalls! "You can always find a good thin' in Marshalls." Because when she lived in the states she was always suprised at how much cheaper things were and how easy it was to return things and sales! The sales! It's a culture made to sell, sell, sell, buy, buy, buy. When she moved back to Italy she always complained: I never buy anything here. Not one nice new thing, she says. Ok, not true. She has lovely Italian things, beautiful. Real quality. But sometimes, she misses the quantity.

Posted by: MD on April 30, 2005 9:10 AM

F. von Blowhard, surely if taxes were what stopped people from saving, Europeans, and indeed, most of the world, would have even lower savings rates.

I suspect it is a very commercial culture mixed with fairly consistent economic achievement that allows people not to feel they have to save for a rainy day.

Posted by: Tom West on April 30, 2005 9:19 AM

The cost difference in movies is between first-run and later-run movies. They all try to cash in on the buzz that makes a first-run movie a big hit. For people who need to be in on the latest thing, a few $$$ ticket price difference is inconsequential. You do NOT want to be the person who learns about these movies from someone else.

It seems to me that big film-makers would be better off making two cheaper movies and marketing them both on the chance that one will hit, rather than one movie costing as much as the two of them. But if you're counting on the draw from big star names that won't work, and also, marketing two movies (a big part of the cost) will always be twice as expensive as marketing one.

There is a niche market for foreign art films, indie films, classics, etc., especially on campusses. It's pretty strong here in Portland.

Posted by: John Emerson on April 30, 2005 10:41 AM

Edgar Bronfman, the Canadian heir to the Seagram's fortune, if I remember right, bought one of the studios. And one of his first ideas was to try variable pricing of movie-theater movies: higher prices for the more popular movies, cheaper prices on the duds. It didn't go anywhere, and I seem to remember he was jeered at for the idea. My own hunches about it:

* People resent it -- at least where movie theaters are concerned -- if they can see the economic laws a little too clearly. I can't imagine why, given the way they love clearances and sales and are willing to pay premiums on other goods, but there you have it.

* Movies are already variably-priced, at least if you don't confine your idea of movies to movies in movie theaters. They're free (more or less) if you watch 'em chopped up by ads and on commercial TV. They're not very expensive at all if you watch 'em on cable. They're still pretty cheap if you rent 'em. Etc, etc. Maybe it's a system of de facto variable pricing that people find palatable. It'd be interesting to try to figure out why this might be. Because it doesn't make them feel screwed by the movie companies?

* The whole question will probably become moot in a few years anyway, when most movie theaters have been converted to digital projection. The movies that attract an audience will expand to many, many theaters. The movies that dud instantly will be yanked instantly. The prices probably won't be adjusted to demand, but the movies themselves will be.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 30, 2005 10:55 AM

I, for one, am mystified: if they have done research, what are they doing in Ford showrooms?

(I have owned 2 Fords in my life. For that, I expect to get at least a few millenia knocked off my time in purgatory...)

Posted by: jimbo on April 30, 2005 3:40 PM

Oh sweet, I had no idea we've been named Gen-Y. My brother and I are even in the same generation. That's cute.

If you say it all-at-once, it's just "Jenny".

I complain a lot about cars. They make much more noise than my bike and their insipid allure has helped turn the country into a parking lot. What's not to complain about?

Posted by: Rob Asumendi on May 2, 2005 3:11 AM

Jimbo's cmment is pretty funny.

FvB's comment isn't about taxes isn't---actually, its sad. The thing I don't get about the difference between Europe and America is...Europeans seem to actually GET something for their taxes. Subsidized gas, guaranteed pensions, lower education costs. It allows them to save more, coz they are actually spending less take-home pay on that stuff. We never do. I actually made myself look at my paycheck stub last week, and look at all the taxes removed before I get it. It made me nauseated. What are we paying for, again?

Posted by: annette on May 2, 2005 11:40 AM

Annette: "Subsidized gas, guaranteed pensions..."

Is that serious or do you have a very wry sense of humor?

Posted by: JT on May 2, 2005 3:23 PM

I'm not clever enough for a "wry sense of humor." All I hear from people who've lived in Europe is about this. I assume you are saying the don't get these things? That almost makes me feel better---at least they're not getting anything for their taxes either!

Posted by: annette on May 2, 2005 6:16 PM

I don't think it's called a subsidy when the government makes sure it costs three times as much. Oh, maybe the government would like to call it that, but ....

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on May 3, 2005 2:08 PM

Re: Independents in US (according to Economist, anyway).

Citizens! Friends! Co-Independents! It's time to come out of the closet: let's call it official. We already have a majority, let's just legalize it - under the common banner.

I am here to propose the unifing idea, that common denominator that surely will inspire us all. It's surpassing classes, religious affiliations, races and genders, and I have a name for a new Party.

The Friends of Beer Party

Well, I'm not being very original here, but it's even better - we have a historical precedent, albeit foreign.
Hastily translated excerpt from the Party site (registered by Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation, Aug 17, 1994)

* Description: Political Party
* Friends of Beer Party (FBP) has branches in 50 administrative regions of Russia (grown from 14 in 1994)
* from The Programm of FBP: "we're the Party of Common Sense...Our ideal is the State where all are comfortable, streets are clean of used cans, salted nuts are plentiful: the government officials limited to minimally necessary, so consuming The Beer citizens would not notice them...Economy starts in a pub...Love to beer is an unifying national idea"
* at this time there are multiple friendly fractions within the Party: The Ale fraction, Light, also Can and Bottle.

This site has many more interesting facts and descriptions, along with mentioning of members-celebrities and current actions of FBP; I'll translate for the curious.

What do you guys think?

Posted by: Tatyana on May 3, 2005 5:09 PM

What, nobody wants to join?
Am I preaching to the *wine & cheese *(c Razib )crowd?
Or is it juleps?

Posted by: Tatyana on May 4, 2005 11:00 AM

Sign me up! Once upon a blogtime, I was proposing an Anti-Political Party. But a Friends of Beer Party is much, much more appealing.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 4, 2005 11:48 AM

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