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The cost of the Sith
Will next week's Star Wars episode take a chunk out of business? Nah. But it'll be fun to watch.
May 11, 2005: 1:15 PM EDT

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Can America operate without its geeks, nerds and sci-fi fanatics for two days?

Hmmm ... tough question. We are a very tech-support dependent society. But we're going to find out next week, when "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" hits theaters. All the wookie fans are going to sneak off Thursday (May 19) or Friday to get their Yoda fix.

That's the thinking, at least, based on past performance. The past two Star Wars flicks drew big box office crowds and attention, even though they sucked.

And it might cost the economy $627 million, according to personnel firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"Jabba junk!" you say? Here's their math: 9.4 million people went to "Attack of the Clones" on its first two days. Since 51 percent of the general population is employed full time, that means 4.8 million of the people seeing "Clones" were full-time workers. Figure, then, that the average pay of a full-time worker is $130.60 a day, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And that there will be a similar turnout for "Sith." Then the grand total of lost wages and productivity from 4.8 million absences is $626.8 million.

Okay, Challenger goes through this exercise with a lot of events ... the Super Bowl, March Madness, etc. And you can argue with the numbers. Not everyone sneaks off work, there's always wasted minutes at work, etc., etc. And in this instance, it's counting two whole days of time for one movie, although Challenger thinks there is a case for that, given the Thursday premiere and likely lines. Indeed, there is already a line to see the movie in New York. And Geeksquad.com has a downloadable excuse note for workers.

But let's face it ... this ain't a national crisis.

"We like to use the number to point out what spikes in worker distraction we may be looking at," said a Challenger spokesman. "It's meant to be fairly light-hearted."

Hear, hear. I'm all for light-heartedness. And I think Fox and LucasFilms may end up needing it. Things may be flatter, at least initially, than the studio hopes.

"I've been burned by George Lucas too many times," said one Star Wars fan colleague. I know a lot of folks, Star Wars inclined, with similar feelings. Oh, they'll see the movie. They will just wait awhile and avoid the opening craziness.

Hey, there's still going to be lines. And some fun. Just probably not as much as there used to be.

Oh what the heck ... geeks, nerds and fanatics ... start your light sabers!

__________________

Allen Wastler is Managing Editor of CNN/Money and appears on CNN's "In the Money." He can be e-mailed at wastlerswanderings@cnn.com.  Top of page

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