Movie Theater Attendance Far Below Historical Norms

Written by on 01/09/2022

Movie Theater Attendance Far Below Historical Norms

Via Gallup:

Americans watched an average 1.4 movies in a movie theater over the past 12 months. This includes a historically high 61% who did not visit a movie theater at all, 31% who saw between one and four movies, and 9% who attended five or more.

Gallup has tracked U.S. adults’ movie attendance using this question periodically between 1988 and 1995 and then more regularly from 2001 through 2007. The latest reading is from a Dec. 1-16 Gallup poll, the first since 2007, and it shows a much higher share of Americans who have stayed home from movie theaters altogether. Between 2001 and 2007, U.S. adults watched an average 4.8 movies in a theater, including 32% who saw zero.

Movie attendance was also down among moviegoers. In 2021, those who attended a movie saw 3.6 films on average, compared with 6.9 in December 2007 and no fewer than 5.7 in any other Gallup survey.

The difference is likely owed largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced nationwide shutdowns of both movie sets where films are made and theaters where they are screened. Attendance appears to remain depressed even with movie theaters now open and vaccinations available to most Americans, suggesting continuing public concern about catching COVID-19 in indoor establishments like theaters.

However, without readings between 2007 and 2021, it is unclear how much in-theater attendance had already declined before the pandemic. Data from a similar question in a 2019 Gallup poll found that moviegoing was already lower than in 2001. This trend was also documented by movie industry analysts, who noted that an increase in at-home streaming services was resulting in lower attendance at movie theaters.

Age and Urbanicity Show Greatest Differences in Moviegoing Habits

In-theater movie attendance is down across all demographic subgroups compared with the 2007 readings. Yet significant differences in moviegoing habits are evident within several groups, including age and urbanicity.

Young adults under age 30 reported seeing an average 3.2 movies in a theater over the past year, while those aged 30-49 saw about half as many (1.4), 50- to 64-year-olds saw an average 0.8 and those aged 65 and older averaged 0.5 movies.

At the same time, city and suburban residents reported seeing twice as many movies as those in more rural areas — 1.7 versus 0.8.

Bottom Line

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., the movie industry was dealing with lower demand for in-theater viewing brought on by more at-home options. And then the pandemic dealt a sharp blow to the industry — both in production and ticket sales. While the three in five Americans who did not go to a movie in the past 12 months is likely inflated because of the pandemic, the industry is grappling with the fact that the habits Americans have fallen into at home may be a barrier to getting them back into theaters when the pandemic ends. Additionally, movie theaters may have fewer offerings for their customers, given ongoing staffing challenges and the slowdown in movie production.


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