The film, based on the 2005 book-turned-New York Times blog by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and the Gray Lady’s Stephen J. Dubner, is composed of five vignettes directed by an all-star roster of documentary heavyweights: Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side and the upcoming Casino Jack and the United States of Money), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Seth Gordon (The King of Kong), and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp).
While Freakonomics doesn’t open until Oct. 1, a sneak preview Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Landmark E Street Cinema is one of 10 around the country where audience members will decide how much they want to pay—anywhere from one cent to a cool $100—for the advance look. However, you can already rent it on iTunes for $9.99, so perhaps Magnolia Films is interfering with the experiment by suggesting the film’s retail value.
In reality, the preview has less in common with Radiohead’s In Rainbows and more with a bagel vendor profiled in Freakonomics (the book) who allowed his customers to set their own prices for breakfast.
“The pay-what-you-want screening represents a fun and engaging way to illustrate the underlying premise of Freakonomics—the application of economics and incentives-based thinking to everyday situations to uncover surprising and sometimes controversial conclusions,” producer Chad Troutwine said in a press release. “It seems only fitting, then, to engage Freakonomics audiences in their own local economic experiment, offering a chance to see the film in advance of its theatrical release while simultaneously bringing the concept of incentives thinking to life.”
The name-your-own price preview begins with an online survey, available here.
The Sneak Preview as Social Experiment: Pay What You Want to See Freakonomics at E Street Cinema was originally published by Washington City Paper on Sep 20, 2010