The Pudding
The Geographic Divide of Oscar Films
Last year, The New York Times mapped 50 TV shows’ popularity by zip code. Here are similar maps for Oscar-nominated films in 2017.

Story: Matt Daniels Maps: Ilia Blinderman, Russell Goldenberg

A few months ago, we were blown away by these brilliant maps by Josh Katz, which visualized how a TV show such as The Daily Show is watched by a completely different geography than 16 and Pregnant.

It’s not surprising – there are thousands of TV shows. If there was even a small audience for reality alpaca farming, TruTV would greenlight it (e.g., a dramatized reenactment of car towing made it to 4 seasons).

Movies are different. With high barriers to entry, we get situations such as #oscarssowhite or male-dominated scripts. Is this year’s Oscar academy still safely appealing to a historically city-based, white audience? Using trailer views on YouTube as an approximation for who watched what, here are the geographic hotbeds of this year’s Oscar-nominees.

The Geography of Best Picture Nominees ‘17

Film’s YouTube Trailer Views, by Region

Relative to other Oscar years, this line-up feels geographically diverse. Every region of the US is covered. Mel Gibson’s quasi-religious war film Hacksaw Ridge has decent coverage throughout the middle US. Conversely, Moonlight, an entirely non-white cast that explores sexuality, drugs, and poverty in the south was a crowd favorite in Florida and Georgia.

Let’s look at each film in more detail.

Best Picture Nominees

Methodology

Some counties in the US, like Los Angeles or New York, have really high populations. Others are sparsely populated, like North Slope Borough in Alaska, which has one person for every 10 square miles of land. In order to control for population effects — to make sure our maps fairly indicated regional interest, rather than places where people watched the most YouTube videos — we looked at each movie’s trailers, and calculated what percentage they constituted of all US YouTube views in the film’s opening week. This gave us a national baseline. We then ran the same analysis for each county. Finally, to get a measure of county interest, we looked at the degree to which each county’s score exceeded or fell below the national average. Prior to mapping, we smoothed the data by calculating Getis-Ord Gi* z-scores for each county’s 20 nearest neighbours. So, to recap in English: we looked at whether a county’s viewing habits for each trailer were higher or lower than the rest of America.