do we calculate each studio’s share of kids delivered
to the tobacco industry?
carefully analyze several sets of data to produce reliable
estimates. First we establish how many tobacco impressions
the major studios are responsible for, combine the results
with data on the number of teens who see films of various
ratings. Second, we apply those numbers to the results
of research on movie smoking’s effect on teens.
Here’s how, step-by-step. For a brief discussion
of more technical statistical issues, see the full
report on the number of smoking images in each studio's
movies and the scientific
papers on the effects of smoking in the movies on
adolescents starting to smoke. Questions? Contact
1. Pick a time period for which data is readily available.
In this case, we researched the six years 1999-2006,
because reliable data on movies’ tobacco content
was almost perfectly complete for those years. (Content
analysis for the top box-office films is available for
most of the 1990s.)
2: Create a database of films.
We used IMDbPro, a database that can be power-searched
on a subscription basis, to produce a list of all live-action,
English-language, U.S.-produced feature-length films
grossing over $500,000 released to U.S. theaters between
Dec. 25, 1998 and Dec. 24, 2006. Each record included
the film’s title, year of release, MPAA rating,
production and distribution credits, director, producers,
and domestic box office (theater ticket sales figures)
while in first-run. The film info was filtered by several
different methods to make sure it was complete; data
conflicts and lacunae were resolved by consulting other
3: Assign each film to a major studio (and parent corporation,
if any). Films from subsidiaries, from production
companies in which a major studio had an ownership interest,
and from production companies with multi-picture deals
with a major studio were credited to the major studio.
So were films independently produced but distributed
in the U.S. by the distribution arm of a major studio.
Where a film was produced by one major studio and distributed
by another studio, or when a film was co-produced by
two major studios, the movie and its smoking content
were co-credited. Analyses were adjusted so as not to
double-count co-credited films.
4: Calculate the number of viewings each film received
in theaters. The National Association of Theatre
Owners (NATO) publishes average ticket prices for each
year we surveyed. We divided the film’s box office
total by the average ticket price to find the number
of tickets sold — the number of times the film
was seen by a paying customer.
5: Estimate the number of tobacco incidents in each
film. Dedicated researchers have trained teams
of monitors to keep accurate track of all tobacco uses,
references, and visuals (such as billboards) in top
box-office films. But we needed data for all movies,
not just the most popular. First, we established which
films were tobacco-free. Then we surveyed the tobacco
content of the rest. Fortunately, an online parental
screening service reviews almost every movie that comes
out for smoking and other content. We compared its five-point
scores for tobacco content to the actual incidents recorded
by the researchers in a large enough sample of films
to establish that the five-point scale could be translated
into a per-film tobacco count. While not reportable
for individual films, results are reliable when combined
by studio, by rating or by year — our levels of
6: Calculate the number of tobacco impressions.
To estimate the number of tobacco impressions films
delivered to the audience, simply multiply the number
of tobacco incidents in a film (Step 5) by the number
of viewings (Step 4). A movie with a small number of
smoking incidents, but a huge audience, might deliver
as many tobacco impressions as a film with a great deal
of smoking but a smaller audience.
DO WE KNOW SO FAR? We know how many films of
different ratings, credited to major studios and to
a few smaller independents, showed tobacco use. We can
reliably estimate how many tobacco incidents each studio
produced and distributed, by rating and by year. We
can reliably estimate how many tobacco impressions each
studio delivered to moviegoers, by rating and by year.
We can also estimate the total number of tobacco impressions
delivered in a given year and over the five years. And
we can estimate what percentage of these tobacco impressions
each studio delivered. But we’re most interested
in how many tobacco impressions were delivered to kids.
7: Find out the age make-up of audiences for films of
different ratings. Studio marketing data on
the audiences for their releases was not accessible.
We did, however, locate hard data on the percentages
of the audiences for G, PG, PG-13, and R movies who
are ages 6-11, 12-17, 18-24, and so on. This data also
showed the audience size for films of different ratings,
and the absolute number of people in each age category
who see films of different ratings.
8: Estimate the tobacco impressions delivered to kids
6-11 and teens 12-17. Equipped with the age-breakout
of movies rated G, PG, PG-13, and R, we can determine
how many tobacco impressions from PG-13 movies were
delivered to kids or teens, for example. Take the total
number of tobacco impressions delivered by PG-13 movies.
Multiply that number by the fraction of PG-13 audience
members aged 6-11. Follow the same procedure for films
of other ratings for kids 6-11 and teens 12-17.
9: Estimate the tobacco impressions delivered to kids
by each studio. We know each studio’s
fraction of tobacco impressions delivered by films of
each rating. (For example, 26% of tobacco impressions
in G/PG films 1999-2004 came from Disney films.) We
can also calculate the fraction of teens’ tobacco
impressions that come from G/PG movies: divide the G/PG
tobacco impressions delivered to teens by the total
tobacco impressions delivered to them by all ratings.
To arrive at studio share, multiply the two fractions
together and sum the results for films of all ratings.
10. Establish the effect on-screen smoking has on young
audiences. Based on landmark
research published in the summer of 2003 —
supported by a decade of other research findings —
we know that real-life exposure to on screen smoking
recruits half of all new teen smokers. (90% of all U.S.
smokers start younger than 20). Equally important, we
also know the effect is very straightforward —
a teen who has seen twice as much smoking on-screen
is twice as likely to start smoking as one who has seen
half as much. From on-going surveys, we know how many
teens start smoking each year. Half that number, the
half recruited by smoking in movies, equals 390,000.
11. Estimate the number of teens delivered to the tobacco
industry by each major studio. Because we know
that exposure is dose-related — twice as much
produces twice the effect — we know that each
studio’s contribution to teen’s exposure
boosts the number of teens who start smoking, in direct
proportion. If a studio reduced the number of tobacco
impressions it delivered, on the other hand, the number
of teens starting to smoke would go down. Multiply the
number of kids starting to smoke because of their exposure
to smoking on screen (390,000 annually) by the share
of tobacco impressions delivered to teens 12-17 by each
studio to estimate how many kids they deliver to the
tobacco companies. In The Disney Company's case
(18% of 390,000), the stunning answer is that 70,000
teens start to smoke every year because of smoking scenes
in Disney’s movies.
STEP 12: Estimate each studio’s contribution to tobacco companies’ sales revenue and profit. How much is a studio’s tobacco imagery worth to the tobaco industry? We have already estimated the studio’s share of the 390,000 annual new young smokers recruited by their on-screen. The same fraction can be applied to that cohort’s lifetime tobacco sales revenue ($4.1 billion) captured by the tobacco manufacturers and the piece of this revenue counted as profit. Based on its share of new young smokers recruited 1999-2004, for example, Disney’s tobacco imagery has been worth an average of $738 million annually in sales revenue to the tobacco industry over that period: $4.1 billion x 0.18 = $738 million (npv). The notation “(npv)” given after the dollar-amount of this multi-year money flow means “net present value;” values over a lifetime are discounted to state their worth here and now.
Because the number and ratings mix of a studio's releases, the box
office earned by its releases, and their tobacco content all change
year-to-year, a studio's share of new smokers recruited will also
change. The computations we describe produce, for each studio,
average annual figures over a defined period of years. The data used
in the illustrations on this page come from 1999-2004. As data are
updated, each studio's average may shift up or down; so the number of
new smokers attributable to each studio changes, as will the studio's
contribution to tobacco sales revenue and profit. For example, based on the average amont of smoking in Disney films from 1999-2004, we estimated that the average value of new smokers to the tobacco industry was $738 million a year; based on the average amount of smoking in Disney films from 1999-2005, this estimate becomes $690 million.
we’ve noted, the CEOs of the major media companies
that own most of Hollywood’s major studios could
save 50,000 lives a year just by picking up the phone
and telling their studio chiefs to keep smoking out
of their kid-rated movies. That’s what the R-rating
will do, simply, unintrusively, effectively.
STEP 13: Estimate studio accountability for future deaths. The same studio contribution to teen exposure can be used to estimate the studio’s accountability for eventual tobacco deaths linked to teen exposure. Based on historical statistics, we know that 32% of daily smokers will eventually die prematurely from tobacco use. That means 120,000 of the annual cohort of 390,000 adolescents recruited to smoke by their exposure to on-screen smoking will eventually be killed by tobacco. About half of teen exposure comes from youth-rated films that would be smokefree if an R-rating for tobacco were now in place; because the effect is dose-related, the R-rating would avert about 60,000 tobacco deaths per year. If the studios have delay adopting the R-rating for thirty months, then they are collectively accountable for 30 X (60,000 / 12) = 150,000 eventual deaths that would have been prevented if they had acted sooner. Each studio is accountable for deaths according to its contribution to the teens’ exposure. If a studio has contributed 18% of adolescent exposure, for example, then it is accountable for an estimated 150,000 X 0.18 = 27,000 deaths for that 30 months delay.