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What Does It Take For You To Walk Out Of A Movie?

An experiment on Twitter led Fast Company writer Joe Berkowitz to explore the psychology of abandoning a movie in a theater vs. at home.

What Does It Take For You To Walk Out Of A Movie?
[Photo: Julien Andrieux/Unsplash]

We may be in a Golden Age of TV, but we’re definitely in a Golden Age of Watching 25 Minutes of a Movie and Turning It Off Forever.

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In the era of infinite content, the stakes are infinitely low for finishing a movie on Netflix. As each un-entertaining minute trudges by, the siren song of more appealing options grows louder. You didn’t go to the video store to retrieve this movie. The screenwriter probably isn’t sitting beside you, on pins and needles, awaiting an instant review. Why throw good time after bad?

As cavalier as we’ve become about bailing on movies at home, though, the decision of whether to walk out of a theater, mid-flick, is far weightier. After recently seeing a gaggle of fed-up senior citizens abandon Blade Runner 2049, around the hour-and-forty-minute mark, I decided to ask my Twitter followers about the last time they decided to prematurely eject from a theater.

The responses overall reaffirmed the case for mass reluctance in leaving a movie early. Apparently, knowing that there are endless viewing options waiting at home has not devalued the theater experience enough to jolt ticket-holders out of their seats without significant motivation.

Some people described walking out for situational reasons, like a malfunctioning stomach, or a bad date.

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Others described situational causes related to the style of movie.

Mostly, though, people responded saying they left the movie because it was just that irredeemably bad.

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Part of the reluctance to walk out is because the movie cost way more than the fraction of a penny each individual Netflix selection breaks down to. Nobody wants to feel ripped off, and the longer they stay seated, there’s a chance the bad-seeming movie could eventually yield a return on investment. Unfortunately, this usually ends up being the kind of desperate optimism that bankrupted the Pets.com people.

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A lot of people responded to the tweet, however, to say that they make it a point to never walk out of a movie. Some of them seemed to be adhering to a cinephile’s creed, upholding an oath to the arts to see even the most painful garbage through to the finish. Others just seemed obliged to stick around because of the principle of the thing. They left the house for this, dammit! They’re making an evening out of it, and they’re not going to let some dumb movie “beat” them–as one guy put it.

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All told, the idea of walking out of a movie provoked a strong reaction. What are your thoughts on the subject? Tweet me at @JoeBerkowitz with your hot and cold takes.

In the meantime, take a stroll down memory lane with some of the more eminently walk-outable titles people responded with. (The most common response by far was Suicide Squad.)

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