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Treebeard's Stumper Answer
21 May 1999

Star Wars Survey Says

The long awaited new Star Wars movie opens this week. I got my opening day tickets early! We all have strong feelings about the movies we like, so what are our favorites? This is a survey with a twist. The stumper is to pick the five favorite movies (PG-13 or less) that most others will pick, knowing that they are trying to do the same thing. For each film on your list, your score will be the number of people (including yourself) who listed that same film. Your scores will be added together for a total, and someone will win.


Despite the terms of the film survey, I think most DMS kids picked their favorites without regard for popularity. Titanic was the most listed film with 24 votes, followed by Austin Powers (19), The original Star Wars (19), Return of the Jedi (13), The Phantom Menace (13), and The Empire Strikes Back (9). Olive and Alix shared the high score of 88 points. Only Chris got a low score of 5 points by picking films that no one else picked. I suppose the dominance of Star Wars is not surprising with the recent opening. I'm more impressed that 51 films received just a single vote, showing a healthy diversity of choice.

Notes:

I polled my students at Dunn Middle School (age 11-14) for my data. I also got votes from parents and the Internet, but not enough to be meaningful, and it seems best not to mix kids and adults.

My guess is that kids' tastes in movies will always be a stumper for adults, and vica-versa. I'm sure the studios study this. Romance and comedy did best. I expected Star Wars films to do well this week, but I didn't expect a sweep. The new Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace got 13 votes on the Friday after it opened, but I don't think many DMS kids had even seen it yet! Despite controversy in the newsgroups, I'm sure it would do better now a week later. "When people ask me what my favorite of all my movies is, I always tell them: My next one." - Akira Kurosawa. I suppose that goes for viewers too, though I believe it takes years to find the really great movies that stay with you.

It doesn't seem worth typing the whole film list, but some statistics are in order:

When I was a kid in the '50s, my taste ran to sci-fi and fantasy. I probably would have picked George Pal's War of the Worlds as my favorite. I must have seen it at least twenty times. At 25 cents for a matinee, why not? And they didn't clear the theater between showings! Other favorites I still remember from that time are:
Jason and the Argonauts
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Invaders from Mars
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
That list gives me a low score of 6.

I tried to think of the films that still most appeal to my inner kid, and I came up with mostly classics:
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Jason and the Argonauts
National Velvet
Star Wars
The Wizard of Oz
This list does better with a score of 30.

This was an interesting way to pose a survey as a contest, as the guesses become the survey itself. It's a bit like the old TV game show Family Feud. I'm most impressed by how many films got just 1 or 2 votes, and how many genuine classics appeared. This is the plus side of TV and video. (The down side is that kids can watch bad films ad infinitum.) I hope the movies continue to be diverse despite marketing research, and that the different films find their audience.

Here are some links for further reasearch.

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Copyright © 1999 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org