Netflix Maps Revisited

A few years ago, I wrote a post discussing my fascination with the “Netflix Neighbors” phenomenon, a tool on Netflix that showed what films were most popular by zip code.  My Fayetteville neighborhood, as I noted at the time, seemed to favor children’s movies, Tyler Perry films, and to a lesser extent, action movies, all of which seem to conform to a small city with a large African-American population near a military base.  Now, thanks to an interactive map created by The New York Times (and discussed in this blog post), these questions about mapping cinematic taste are being revisited.

The interactive map traces ten metropolitan areas, including New York, Boston, Washington, Austin, and Atlanta, among others, against some of the most rented films and their rankings on Metacritic, a popular review site.  The differences between neighborhoods are interesting.  A quick glance at my old Decatur, GA, neighborhood, for example, shows that zip code’s taste for Oscar bait from Slumdog Millionaire to Frost/Nixon and critically-acclaimed directors such as Jonathan Demme and the Coen brothers.  A similar list emerges in my parents’ zip code in Roswell, but with Seven Pounds and Twilight cracking the top ten.

Because the map is limited to ten cities, the maps may not tell us much about movie tastes beyond urban centers, but it can help to visualize how geography and cultural tastes may be related (and how popular taste may diverge from–or coincide with–critical taste).  To be clear, I don’t think that films that are “most rented” should be equated with films that are considered the “best” by a group of people, but it’s fun to see how these patterns form.

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