A paper presented by two researchers over the weekend to the annual meeting of the American Economic Association here challenges the conventional wisdom, concluding that violent films prevent violent crime by attracting would-be assailants and keeping them cloistered in darkened, alcohol-free environs.
Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.
“You’re taking a lot of violent people off the streets and putting them inside movie theaters,” said one of the authors of the study, Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, San Diego. “In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime.”
Professor Dahl and the paper’s other author, Stefano DellaVigna, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, attach precise numbers to their argument: Over the last decade, they say, the showing of violent films in the United States has decreased assaults by an average of about 1,000 a weekend, or 52,000 a year.
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