Netflix Rental Patterns, or, Minnesotans Love to Rent "The Bucket List"


A bit of nerdy interactive fun for you today: the New York Times has an Interactive Map of Netflix Queues covering 100 "frequently rented" titles from 2009, including very heavily-rented titles like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and less-rented titles like Happy-Go-Lucky and Adventureland.

The map is interactive, allowing you to slide or step through various movie titles and see how popular each title is in twelve metro areas in the US: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington, the Bay Area (aka San Francisco, Oakland, etc.), Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami. What's better, you get a geographic breakdown by ZIP code within each metro area, so you can see if a title is popular in the city center or the 'burbs. For example, Milk (a biopic about Harvey Milk, who lived and worked in San Francisco) is the #1 rented title in many ZIP codes in the city center of San Francisco.

While the Times notes that distinct patterns are visible with the titles Mad Men (popular in city centers), Obsessed (popular in predominantly black neighborhoods), and Last Chance Harvey (popular everywhere but city centers), I found the most interesting pattern overall in The Bucket List: popular almost nowhere except in Minneapolis, where it stains the landscape like a bizarre, vaguely urine-colored invader (seen above). Check out the map for yourself and see what you can figure out! (See also: the comment thread for the infographic, which is full of privacy concerns, political flames, and requests for more info on the raw data and methodology. One excellent comment from "DCR" in Arlington, Virginia: "We don't just live in red, blue and purple zip codes; we live in Milk, Tyler Perry and Slumdog Millionaire zip codes.")

For what it's worth, you can get similar data yourself directly from Netflix if you're a member. Scroll to the bottom of the Netflix site, click Friends, scroll down to "Unique in [Your City] and click "See What's popular in Other Locations," then note the box in the upper right portion of the page -- you can get statistics for any ZIP code . Here's a direct link that may or may not work for you.