Movie Theater Attendance Remains Low

Movie Theater Attendance Remains Low almost empty movie theater (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 06 December 2021 01:39 PM

Attendance at movie theaters across the country remains low, according to research firm The Quorum, which found that about half of pre-pandemic customers are still avoiding the theater.

Quorum, which is led by the former head of research for United Talent Agency David Herrin, conducted the survey along with the consultancy company Cultique and the agency Fanthropology. They polled more than 2,500 people who went to a movie theater in 2019, some once a week and others only a few times per year.

About 51% of those surveyed have purchased a ticket for a movie theater within the last few months, while 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are not buying tickets for theaters, with about 8% of them saying they are unlikely to return.

"The research clearly shows that theaters are suffering because the pandemic intensified, accelerated, amplified all of the nascent trends that were already underway," Linda Ong, the brand strategist who heads Cultique, told The New York Times. "That is the definition of a perfect storm — not that various problems exist at the same time, but that they have an intensifying effect on each other."

The Times notes that not only are customers still concerned about the dangers of COVID-19, rising prices on tickets and concessions and decreasing "experiential value" have many moviegoers rethinking the theater.

"Before, maybe you went every now and again — overlooking the drawbacks," said Herrin. "Now you add safety concerns to that mix, and you suddenly become a former filmgoer."

He also noted that most ticket buyers are white men between the ages of 25 and 45 who live in urban areas, saying that "once you get outside of that demographic, you’re really starting to lose people."

Herrin added that the moviegoers who haven’t returned to theaters were more likely to support vaccine mandates for attendees, and said that they were more likely to express concerns about the cost and value of going to a theater.

The survey found that lowering prices on traditional concessions, improving seating, and cracking down on filmgoers using their phones in theaters are the most popular proposed changes among customers.

"There needs to be a sense of urgency," Herrin said. "I don’t know how large a window there is for exhibition to win these people back," he added, using Hollywood jargon for the multiplex business.