Or, freakonomic goes to the movies.
Economists experts have come up with a finding that won’t please those who consider the cinema a ‘family friendly‘ place or those advocating more U/PG films (that’s you, Mr Fithian) – showing violent films in cinemas doesn’t increase the levels of violence in society, it keeps violent people off the street and glued to the screen. New York Times has the details:
“You’re taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters,” said one of the authors of the study, Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. “In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime.”
Professor Dahl and the paper’s other author, Stefano DellaVigna, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, attach precise numbers to their argument: Over the last decade, they say, the showing of violent films in the United States has decreased assaults by an average of about 1,000 a weekend, or 52,000 a year.
Crime is not merely delayed until after the credits run, they say. On the Monday and Tuesday after packed weekend showings of violent films, no spike in violent crime emerges to compensate for the peaceful hours at the movies. Even a few weeks later, there is no evidence of a compensating resurgence, they say.
Though I’m often tempted to beat people up once I’m in the cinema, it has more to do with the cretins talking on their phone once the film is rolling rather than any violent antics on the screen. When you make claims like this, however, doubting Thomases are legio, with Craig A. Anderson, “a psychologist and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University” professing questioning the findings and claiming that there is a correlation between violence on the screen and on the street. But if that’s the case, does that mean that watching comedies makes people funnier?