Theatrical Movies Streamed More at Home

Even though Netflix and Disney+ are making a habit out of releasing movies exclusively to their streaming platforms without giving them a theatrical release, it might not get the movie in front of as many eyes as they’d hoped.

According to a new survey conducted by Ernst & Young, about 62% of the 2,620 peoplesurveyed said they were more likely to watch a movie through a streaming service if it was given a theatrical release beforehand. Maybe skipping the theatrical release isn’t the best path for streamers to take with their movies?

It should be noted that the survey conducted by Erns & Young (via Variety) was commissioned by the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). The organization is obviously happy with these results since they’ve been fighting with the likes of Netflix about the theatrical release window, prompting many major theater chains to refuse to show streamer’s higher profile titles looking for a release in theaters in order to qualify for awards, and in some cases, reach a wider audience at the same time.

The results of this survey are rather interesting when you consider the fact that many thought Netflix’s refusal to cooperate with movie theaters (and vice versa) resulted in The Irishman and Marriage Story making much less money than they would have if they had a longer theatrical window. Phil Contrino, director of media and research at NATO says, “A theatrical release creates more of a conversation.”

What NATO says is true, but at the same time, this survey feels rather insignificant when you think about the fact that theatrically released movies are marketed more to audiences than original movies that are released exclusively through streaming services. So of course audiences are more inclined to watch a theatrically released movie through a streaming service. But that’s not the most interesting thing about this study.

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Streaming Services Aren’t Keeping People from Going to Theaters

Many have talked about Netflix, Hulu, and now Disney+ as upsetting the theatrical distribution model, and to some extent it has shaken things up a bit. But this study found that the streaming services actually act more complementary to the theatrical experience rather than deterring people from heading out to movie theaters.

Moviegoers who went to a movie theater nine times or more each year actually watched more streaming content than those who went to the theater only once or twice. And when it comes to the people who haven’t been to the movies in the past year, half of them don’t stream anything at all.

When it comes to different age groups and the choice between going to the movies or streaming, there doesn’t seem to be much of an inverse correlation between how often people go to the movies and how much they stream entertainment at home. Variety says:

“They study suggests that younger viewers, weaned on YouTube, aren’t abandoning the multiplex en masse. Consumers between the ages of 13 to 17 streamed the most content per week (10.5 hours) and saw the most movies in theaters (6.8 movies). People between the ages of 18 to 37 watched the fewest movies in theaters (5.6 movies), while streaming 8.5 hours of content a week. Respondents between the ages of 38 to 52 watched 9.5 hours of streaming content a week and saw 6.1 movies in theaters. Respondents between the ages of 53 to 72 streamed 6.9 hours of content while seeing 6.1 movies in cinemas.”

That would seem to imply that the higher number of entertainment options available at home through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Disney+ isn’t the primary reason for movie theater attendance being down. That echoes findings by a similar study conducted back in 2018, and the fact that the results haven’t changed as streaming options have increased would seem to illustrate that it’s movie theaters killing themselves.

More than likely, it’s the high cost of movie tickets and concessions keeping people away. It’s significantly cheaper to sit at home on your couch and watch a movie with the family than rounding them up and spending upwards of $100 for everyone to see a movie and have drinks and snacks. That would also explain why they’re more likely to stream a movie that was theatrically released beforehand.

At the end of the day, if something is interesting enough for moviegoers to go out of their way to watch, they’ll see it by whatever means is most convenient for them, whether it’s financially or otherwise. Younger audiences are still heading to theaters despite streaming all the time, and older viewers streaming less aren’t going to movies more often. So it sounds like streaming services and movie theaters just need to learn how to exist more harmoniously, because neither one is going anywhere anytime soon.

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