Pia audience survey chart

mark schilling schill at gol.com
Fri Jan 13 22:38:53 EST 2006

Thanks for the information that magazines are a commodity. Having written
for them for twenty years, I'm vaguely aware of that. But service magazines
like Pia are, believe it or not, trying to provide services -- and the
audience survey is one of them.

I'm also quite well aware that, to conduct a thoroughly scientific poll,
you'd have to send pollsters out around the country, make sure your sample
reflected the overall audience for the entire run of film, etc., etc. Pia
doesn't do that. No one does and no one ever will -- it's expensive, time
consuming and, frankly, not worth the use of resources, especially for one
Tokyo-based magazine.

What Pia does do is ask Tokyo moviegoers  the sort of simple up-down
questions that real people ask their friends about a movie they've just
seen. Did you like it? How much? Granted, a one-to-hundred scale is not
"accurate," but it's bit more precise that the usual thumbs up, thumbs down
or shrug. And when you have eighty or a hundred such numbers you have a
slightly better read for what people actually think about a film than asking
your three closest friends. Internet message boards and chat rooms are other
sources of this sort of info, but the people who log in are also self
selecting -- and if they are not always movie nerds they are also often not
what anyone would consider average.

What the Pia numbers tell me is not whether film A truly and actually
outranks film B in popularity. It gives me a rough, but generally accurate
read (as measured by corresponding BO figures) for whether real people
walking out of real theaters liked a movie or not. The number one rating for
Summer Time Machine Blues does not prove that it was really the most popular
mini-theater film released in Japan in 2005 -- I never said that. What is
does indicate is that, for whatever reason, Motohiro is connecting with his
audience -- that his popularity is not simply driven by Fuji TV hype. Of
course, a producer thinking of putting money into his next film would want
to see the box office numbers first and foremost, but the Pia number one
rating is another plus for him, like winning an Audience Prize at a film
festival. Those prizes are also not an entirely scientific measure of a
film's popularity -- they are decided by those who take the trouble to tear
the little cards at the end of a single screening -- but they are valued by
the film's creators, distributors and, most importantly in the commercial
sense, buyers.

Finally, are the "man in the street" comments worthless? I suppose so, if
you believe that what ordinary fans think is of no importance. As a
journalist writing for industry folks who make their living from those
ordinary fans I think those comments can occasionally be of interest.

I'll let you have the last word, Aaron, as always. I've had my say on this
subject. Happy New Year!

Mark Schilling

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Aaron Gerow" <aaron.gerow at yale.edu>
To: <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Sent: Saturday, January 14, 2006 2:07 AM
Subject: Re: Pia audience survey chart

> > Pia is not "selling information" so much as providing a service to
> > readers,
> > telling them how several dozen ordinary moviegoers felt about the film
> > they
> > have just seen.
> Certainly Pia does provide a service, but any researcher of the
> information society--and some studies have been done of Pia and the
> johoshi--will tell you that information is not just a service, but a
> commodity that is produced and marketed, and thus subject as much to
> the effects of commodity capitalism as any other product. As we all
> know, there are many products out there that are not sold for their
> utility, but for their image or other factors that are as produced as
> the commodity itself. Joho is no different.
> >
> > Scientific? Probably not -- but again, the results are intended for,
> > not
> > researchers, but readers looking to get a sense for whether a film is
> > for
> > them or not. As a journalist (formerly with Screen International, now
> > with
> > Variety), I sometimes find Pia rankings valuable for getting a "man (or
> > woman) on the street" take on a film I can't get from a flack or a
> > critic.
> > The comments are especially revealing in their honesty, though raves
> > are
> > more common than pans.
> But my complaint is that it doesn't give you a man on the street view.
> It gives you a view of a small audience that happened to go to see the
> film in the first few days it was released at a particular set of
> theaters. (Pia does not keep polling weeks down the line and doesn't do
> much polling in the boonies.) First, the people who go to the see the
> film early are not always the "average" people (especially when it
> comes to idol movies or others with a strong fan base). Second, the
> questions are vague, because they don't give the respondent any
> comparative standard for rating (to one person, a 75 may be good, but
> for another a 75 is a bad rating). Third, different audiences have
> different standards: a person used to TV who goes to the movies only
> once a twice a year and is drawn to a film by big TV advertising will
> apply different standards of judgment compared to an avid film fan who
> sees art films once every other week. Since different audiences go to
> different films, the results cannot easily be compared (that's why the
> Pia best ten is largely useless, I believe), unless you are comparing
> the same kinds of films polled under similar conditions.
> I'm not saying that the comments or results in Pia should be ignored:
> they may provide a good quote or footnote. But they do not represent
> the man on the street and I find them much less useful than comment
> sites like yahoo.jp, where you can actually read the opinions and get a
> better sense of who is responding and what their arguments are. But
> even there there are problems (e.g., older audiences don't write
> comments on the internet, etc.).
> Perhaps the search for the view of the man on the street is itself
> problematic?
> Aaron Gerow
> Assistant Professor
> Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
> Director of Undergraduate Studies, Film Studies Program
> Yale University
> 53 Wall Street, Room 316
> PO Box 208363
> New Haven, CT 06520-8363
> Phone: 1-203-432-7082
> Fax: 1-203-432-6764
> e-mail: aaron.gerow at yale.edu

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