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Watching what the neighbors are watching

September 22, 2006|Deborah Netburn and Patrick Day

Netflix's "Local Favorites" feature -- which gives members a list of the top DVD rental picks in any given ZIP Code -- provides a fascinating anthropological glimpse at what films, television shows and documentaries appeal to various cities and even specific neighborhoods. Because the database is searchable by ZIP Code, it is possible to see what films are showing up in Pacific Palisades mailboxes and how they are different from what people in Santa Monica are putting in their queue. Steve Swasey, Netflix director of communications, says compiling a list

of popular films by ZIP Codes was something the company was already doing internally, as a way to track rental patterns. Then they thought their customers might think it was interesting too and started to display their results on the website. The lists are revised each week. Some lists seemed obvious (lots of gay-themed films in West Hollywood), while others are unexpected (who knew that Beverly Hills residents have such a penchant for art house fare?). Here's a look at this week's top picks.

Beverly Hills

Some of the world's richest people are on a major art house bender. Nos. 1-5 are either foreign, classy documentary or classic old timey.

"Gloomy Sunday"

("Ein Lied von Liebe und Tod")

"The Philadelphia Story"

"Ballets Russes"

"Paper Clips"

"Sketches of Frank Gehry"


West Hollywood

Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are just what you'd expect: a gay-themed murder mystery, a horror flick that takes place during a West Hollywood Halloween and a sex-comedy complete with gay teenage son, respectively. But there at No. 4 is "The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman" for all the aspiring agents, managers and studio execs who haven't made it big enough to move farther west just yet.

"Third Man Out"


"Cote d'Azur"

"The Last Mogul: The Life and Times of Lew Wasserman"

"Adam and Steve"


Pacific Palisades

Not a lot of happy movie renting over in the 'Sades. Their No. 1 pick, "Tsotsi," is about a young man who shoots a woman and steals her car, then rediscovers his humanity when he finds a baby in the back seat. "Paradise Now" is about suicide bombers, and "Water" is about child widows in India. Liberal guilt?


"Paradise Now"


"Grey's Anatomy: Season 2"

"House, M.D.: Season 2"


Santa Monica

The surfing flick "Riding Giants" makes sense, but what is the third installment of Kieslowski's "Trois Couleurs" series doing in the No. 2 spot? Or the documentary about the explosive '60s author Charles Bukowski? Santa Monica, apparently, we hardly know ye.

"Riding Giants"


"Gloomy Sunday"

"Bukowski: Born Into This"

"Sketches of Frank Gehry"


The OC: Newport Beach

Newport Beach residents love "Spinal Tap." They also love Dylan. And they've been enjoying a healthy dose of Gwyneth Paltrow (in "Sliding Doors") as well.

"This Is Spinal Tap"

"No Direction Home: Bob Dylan"

"Sliding Doors"

"24: Season 3"



San Francisco

The rap on San Franciscans is that they love their city, and their Netflix choices bear that generalization out. From Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" to Spike Lee's only San Francisco movie, "Sucker Free City," choices of residents of the City by the Bay show they want only to relax at the end of a long day by looking just a little longer at ... themselves.

"24 Hours on Craigslist"

"Sucker Free City"

"Tales of the City"

"Pornography: The Secret History of Civilization"

"The House on Telegraph Hill"


New York

See San Francisco entry re: self-satisfaction quotient.

"New York" (a documentary series)

"Born Rich" (NYC/Hamptons-set documentary)

"Barbarians at the Gate"


"Human Resources" ("Ressources Humaines")

Further down the NYC list:

"New York Stories"

"Barefoot in the Park"

"Bonfire of the Vanities"

"Manhattan Murder Mystery"



Park City, Utah

Every January, Hollywood invades this ski town and turns it into a hotbed of American independent film. The rest of the year? In the "real" Park City, Lindsay Lohan's off-set partying is a nonissue -- her "Just My Luck" is No. 4. And though Tim Allen and indie cinema go together like a Big Mac and chablis, his "The Shaggy Dog" is the only big deal in town.

"Kinky Boots"

"The World's Fastest Indian"


"Just My Luck"

"The Shaggy Dog"

Source: Netflix

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