Arnold Outpolls T3

The candidate got more votes than his last movie.

This just in from the Chatterbox Recall Election Desk: The number of Californians who cast their vote yesterday for Arnold Schwarzenegger exceeds the number of Californians who have gone to see Terminator 3.

The data.As of Oct. 7, T3 had pulled in $150,269,166 at the domestic box office. Given that the average movie ticket price is $5.80, that’s 25,908,477 customers nationwide. California’s population (34,501,130) represents 12 percent of the U.S. population (292,283,307). If we assume that California’s share of the nation’s T3 ticket-buyers is similarly 12 percent, then T3 has served 3,109,017 customers in California. That’s roughly half a million fewer than the number of California voters (3,694,436) who designated Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor should the incumbent be recalled and more than a million fewer than the number of California voters (4,358,033) who voted “yes” on the recall, based on a tally of 99.8 percent of California’s precincts. The “yes” vote is the more significant pro-Schwarzenegger vote, since most people voting for the recall surely knew that Schwarzenegger, who was well ahead in the polls, was Gray Davis’ likeliest replacement.

Evaluating the data. California, which is home to the entertainment industry, likely harbors more moviegoers than other states and consequently may be responsible for more than 12 percent of national ticket sales. That makes T3’sestimated California attendance figure of 3,109,017 a lowball. Balanced against that, however, is the reality that moviegoers (unlike voters) can be repeat customers; Chatterbox’s calculation inevitably double- or triple-counts people who saw T3 more than once. That makes T3’s estimated California attendance figure of 3,109,017 too high. Let’s call it a wash.

Meanwhile, since there have been no reports of massive voter fraud, we can be reasonably confident that the number of Californians who voted for Schwarzenegger really was 4,358,033—or actually, a tiny bit higher, since not all the precincts have reported in.

What the data mean.At least in regard to the domestic market, Schwarzenegger has made a wise career move. With T3 now playing in only 186 movie theaters nationwide, its final domestic box-office take is unlikely to zoom much past $150,269,166. By comparison, T2 hauled in $204,843,345 at the domestic box-office; that’s more than $270,000,000 in current dollars. When the return on your best-known brand is declining, it’s time to seek new markets.

The number of Californians who saw T3 (3,109,017) is close enough to the number of Californians who designated Schwarzenegger for governor (3,694,436) that it’s fun to ask whether they’re the same people. They aren’t, because movie audiences and voters represent two totally different demographics. Movie audiences skew young, which explains why so many movies today are, well, juvenile. Voters skew old, which explains why it’s almost impossible to raise the Social Security retirement age.

What Arnold’s race for governor was really about, then, was the pursuit of an older demographic. Given that he’s pushing 60, it makes a certain amount of sense for him. Whether it makes sense for anyone else remains to be seen. In fairness, though, Chatterbox will note that the number of people who designated Schwarzenegger for governor (3,694,436) exceeds the number of people who designated Gray Davis for governor in 2002 (3,469,025). There are no new markets for Davis to conquer.