Turning on BBCi digital teletext this morning, one of the top stories was this:

Priest Dies At Passion Screening

It then goes on to say how a Brazilian priest died of a heart-attack whilst watching Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of The Christ.

Now I'm a fan of coincidence. I love them. They happen all the time, especially, it seems, to me. What I particularly like, however, is that most of them are not really coincidence at all; when you get down to the nuts and bolts of how we live, what we do, and the relatively small circles most people move in, these things are actually particularly likely. In fact, it would be odd if they didn't happen.

So, is it newsworthy that Jose Geraldo Soares's wife "noticed he was no longer awake" after watching three quarters of a hour of Jesus getting his head kicked in*? Let's do the maths**:

Life expectancy is about 70 years, at least in most first world countries, it's somewhere, round about this figure. In many places it's lower, so this is a conservative figure for the calculations I'm going to use it for.

This means that, given a large and varied enough set of people there is a One in Seventy chance of any one person dying in any given year. Obviously, an obese octogenarian alcoholic smoker is more likely to die than a twenty year old fitness freak, but the huge numbers of people going to see this film will even this up.

Films don't tend to go on for a year (some terrible films can seem like they do, but that doesn't count). They tend to be about an hour and a half or summit like that, so we multiply that all up a bit...

1 in 70×365= 25550 will die in any given day
1 in 25550×24= 613200 will die in any given hour
1 in 613200÷1.5 408800 will die in any given 90 mins, or during any given film screening.

Now, we have to do some adjustment, because the figures are a bit over the top here. You are very unlikely, whilst sitting in a cinema to die of a road accident, train crash, drowning or because of war (unless one of those smart missiles goes off target). This particular man dies of a heart-attack, so a quick look at statistics show that (in Britain at least) 1 in 27 deaths are caused by cardio-vascular disease.

One in 1594320 people watching a film in a cinema will die of a heart-attack whilst they are there.

So that's about one and a half million

So, will the millions of people going to see this film, it would be a little odd if no-one died of a heart attack, wouldn't it?

Just remember. If you've seen 1594319 films, and you fancy going to see another...DON'T!

BTW this method also deals with the silly legends about people dying during the filming of The Exorcist. Less people involved, of course, but still enough over a long period of time to make it statistically normal.

This w/u seems to have generated lots of msgs in my inbox, many of which make good points and are really interesting (and most point out flaws in my logic ;-) I won't change the original text since it would make it too complex (and would probably disproove the point I was attempting to make in the first place). Maybe this is a good demonstration that you can use statistics to say anything (and the average noder is probably much more sophisticated about these things than the average person...

Brontosaurus states that my reversing the life expectancy to get a 1/10 chance of dying in a year is wrong, and actually the figure's more like 1/100.

lj correctly notes that I should be doing these figures on the number of priests who saw the film, not the total audience. It is, I suppose, the fact that this bloke was a priest that made it more interesting. I wonder where I could get stats for the number of clergymen seeing the film? I assume it'd be much higher than for most films :-)

simpleton makes the astute observation that the 'average moviegoer' is not the same as the 'average person': "One just has to look at the standard movie trailer to realize the main audience of most films is somewhere between the ages of 12 and 25. The Passion has an older audience (making it likelier to result in dead viewers), but it's my guess that the distribution is still skewed toward younger people."

*This is, at least, what I gather the film involves

**Unfortunately, I am often prone to odd jumps of logic or just blatant stupidity, so if you notice any in all this, please /msg me!

Sources:
BBCi news, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/film/3559753.stm
The UK National Statistics Office, http://www.statistics.gov.uk