What Spoilers Really Do for You

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With both the COVID-19 pandemic and winter looming ahead of us for a while, we've never needed good entertainment more. For most of 2020, many of us have been mainlining TV shows and streaming movies at home. Maybe someday we'll pack into theaters again, but for now, we'll do anything to forget the outside world for a while.

Which brings us to one of the great bright lines in entertainment: those who like spoilers and those who do not. For a spoilerphobe, learning plot points or whether your favorite characters finally kiss can totally ruin the experience of the story. For everyone else, however, knowing what's coming makes the whole thing that much more fun.

Marketing researchers recently published a study looking into whether movie reviews that contained spoilers had any effect on a film's box office numbers. If knowing the twist or the ending in advance really does ruin a story, you'd think that would spell doom and failure for a project's returns. Instead, the researchers found that generally, we're still totally happy to pay for a movie if we know what's coming — in fact, spoilers helped audiences decide whether to invest in the showing or not.

People who love spoilers insist that a really good work of art is all about the process of getting through the plot, and knowing what's coming can't ruin what's well-constructed in the first place. Others say the surprise is the whole point. Either way is a valid approach, but the researchers do recommend one thing: We care a lot about whether we have the option to see spoilers or not. Let people know if spoilers are coming. After that, do what you like.