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Netflix recently released data to the New York Times showing the top rentals of 2009 by various zip codes. The paper plotted a set of the rentals on maps showing twelve American metro areas. Maps of each area are shaded to represent how frequently a film was rented in that area, and the results often seem, sadly, to be as predictable as you’d expect.

Looking at Atlanta, for instance, few outside of the north half of the metro area inside the I-285 perimeter (a primary demarcation between urban and suburban Atlanta) touched Vicky Cristina Barcelona, while Paul Blart: Mall Cop is barely touched inside that perimeter and is rented more and more as you move away from the city.

I would like this feature to be more transparent. Seeing an example of the raw data would help in accepting how different films break down across zip codes. Furthermore, what’s interesting isn’t the divisive films like Paul Blart, but a movie like State of Play, which doesn’t have a great presence anywhere, but does have similar general numbers across many different neighborhoods. Is that the Russell Crowe factor? And does the Brad Pitt factor account for the fact that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has better numbers everywhere than you’d expect?

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