The Difference Between Free and Free?

The Ex-Girlfriend’s post about free stuff got me thinking. While people might drive an hour or more to pick up $15 bookshelves for free, and thus spend more on gas and their time than the bookshelves than their time is worth, they don’t react that way to everything. Here in Los Angeles, there are often free movie screenings. Audience reactions have to come from somewhere, after all.

There’s an AMC theater close to where I used to live that is always packed on weekends. And on weekends, there was always a guy in front of the place, with a clipboard, trying to interest people in watching these free movies that hadn’t come out yet. Sure, some no doubt were future bombs, but the guy was often peddling tickets to movies with big stars too. (Not that those don’t sometimes bomb.) The one negative – the viewings were on a Tuesday night.

Now, granted, Tuesday night is a work-night or school-night for most people, especially those willing to pay $10 or $11 a ticket on Friday or Saturday night. (Price discrimination, anyone?) But how few people are willing to go that they have to give those tickets away for free? Why are people willing to waste 2 hours and change driving to pick up “free bookshelves” and not waste 2 hours sitting in an air conditioned theater watching a soon to come out movie?