Most Moviegoers Will Still Go To Theaters Even If What They’re Seeing Will Soon Be Streaming – Study

Two-thirds of moviegoers are not concerned about the length of a film’s release window when they visit a theater, and theatrical titles still enjoy a vast advantage in terms of awareness over original movies made for streaming.

Those are two of the many findings in The Symbiotic Future of Theatrical & Streaming, a new report from UTA IQ, the agency’s research and analytics group. The 55-page report offers extensive validation for the traditional theatrical release model, using data collected January 3 to 11 from 2,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 15 and 69.

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Two-thirds of Americans say the length of time from a movie’s release in theaters to its availability at home has little or no impact on their decision to see a movie in theaters.

Maybe the most interesting section of the report has to do with the overlap of theatrical and streaming. Only 8 of the top 24 titles of 2022, the survey found, were original films made for streaming platforms, and the biggest of those, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, had a one-week national theatrical release as a one-off experiment by Netflix. Even more revealingly, when asked to name the most recent streaming original movie they watched, only one-quarter of consumers correctly listed one. The remaining 75% either couldn’t remember the last streaming original movie they watched or answered with the name of a theatrically released movie they watched at home.

Along with obvious theatrical-first draws like Top Gun: Maverick, the list of top titles included Sony’s Bullet Train, which streamed on Netflix under the studio’s pay-1 deal with the streaming service. Three of Netflix’s five top-viewed film releases of 2022 had theatrical windows first.

There are encouraging findings in terms of the long-term viability of theaters. About 73% of respondents said they plan to maintain or increase their moviegoing pace in 2023. Only 28% said that having access to enough movies at home is why they are going to the movies less often or not at all. Overall theatrical output, which declined dramatically during Covid, is climbing again, though there were only 103 releases by UTA’s count last year. That was up just two films from 2021 and well below the prior levels of 140 to 150 a year before the pandemic. Streaming originals, meanwhile, have passed the 200 annual mark, doubling over the past five years.

Among those who have yet to return to theaters at pre-pandemic levels, fewer than a third (28%) say it’s due to the abundance of movie access at home. Instead they cite as their chief reasons pricing (47%) and health/safety concerns (38%), though at a sharply lower rate than a year ago.

One disconcerting sign is that so many horror movies and thrillers have crowded out other genres. Using an analysis of film content developed by UTA-owned MediaHound, the study found that “suspenseful” as a description applied three times as often as for an average film.

The report consists of an analysis of domestic box office metrics and U.S. viewership of movies on leading streaming platforms, nationally representative survey data among 2,000 U.S. consumers ages 15-69, and proprietary Trait analytics from UTA-owned MediaHound of the style and story elements of top movies in the U.S. across distribution models.

“The study proves what we intuitively believed that there is nothing wrong with the movie business that better films and cleaner theaters can’t fix”, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer said in a press release.  “Audiences want a variety including franchises they love, well-made sequels, and great originals with strong characters in immersive environments. As an industry we need to regain the confidence required to aspire to make great movies of all kinds that will inspire theatrical audiences.”

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