Create Your Own Inner, Ethnic, Autistic Economist

The Washington Post profiles the omnivorous, endlessly fascinating and fascinated Tyler Cowen (best known in these parts as co-proprietor of Marginal Revolution), asking questions about ethnic food (he’s a devotee); his unique (some might say autistic) approach to organizing information; and his firm understanding of economic principles (like sunk costs), including this movie-going advice: “People should be more willing to walk out of movies. Most movies — they grab you or they don’t, and if they don’t, just leave. Just go. You have already lost money. Why lose the time?”[%comments]

Casey Roberson

I would have to agree with that statement. You already have the sunk cost of the movie. Why would you want to waste time or possible earnings from the usage of your time.


Another weird post, but I will bite. I actually went to the office at the theatre and demanded my money back once. They were like, Sir, the movie is halfway over! I said, precisely, do you want me to wait until it is over? I think I hurt the manager's head on that one. Anyway, they gave me tickets for another movie. My friend thought I was joking until I showed them the tickets. They looked at each other and said 'That's Mike'.
(Nicolas Cage movie - Raising the Dead?)

Brian S

Long before I became acquainted with Economics, I was moved by (and subsequently use) the poker analogy "don't put in good money after bad" with respect to leaving a theater. Same deal.


A couple of thoughts about walking out of a movie....

If I rent or buy a movie cheaply, and am not quickly drawn in, I do indeed stop the movie. But when I go to town to watch a movie in a theater, not only do I feel some obligation to "get my money's worth" after spending, say, $10 to watch the movie, but if I have devoted the time to go, I usually would rather stay in the movie than aimlessly wander the mall.

It's kind of like going to a buffet. You know you shouldn't go back for thirds or fourths, but you feel some inner Puritan principle of thrift telling you that you have to milk it even though your belly is hurting.

Lastly, I almost never take the time to and expense to go to a theater unless I have a pretty good idea that what I am going to see is going to be at least average, if not outstanding. In fact, I can't recall a theater movie that I've ever been to where I even wanted to walk out. I guess I just do my research before I buy.

But if I do encounter are real snore-fest, I will keep in mind that I shouldn't waste my time as well as my money.



My father routinely walks out of movies 15-30 minutes into the film if he has not been "grabbed". The large theater chains will always give you your money back or provide a rain check for another movie.


Tyler doesn't seem at all autistic to me. He is a bit Spock-like in his relentlessly logical thought process, but that's hardly the same.


When people go to movies with friends, the social benefit is more important than the movie itself. It would be very rude to walk out unless it's so bad that all agree to leave (which is hard in the dark, in silence)

When people go to movies on dates, there's even more self-pressure to not be rude. Also, it gives a topic of later conservation, even if it's a bad movie.


Also, many movies redeem themselves by the end, or will have a twist-ending or something of the sort. So it's hard to apply this as a blanket statement.


A devotee of ethnic food? What ethnicity? I mean, no one would question the taste of someone devoted to Indian cooking, but what about, say, Scottish?

Bill McGonigle

The rule excludes the form of story telling in which the reader (viewer) is fed bits of information but the story does not form a meaningful whole until the end. The really good ones give you the information without your realizing it.

This can be my favorites, and I'd probably never go to a movie if it had to be Michael-Bay-esque to qualify as worth staying. That said, following the rule exposes you to some downside, a Synechode, NY or a Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. The first of those even got through my Roger Ebert filter.

Some may see it as highly rational, but perhaps it's really protecting yourself from the emotional duress of disappointment (because if you left, that was under your control). It's art, not a chore.