Moviegoing Still Reigns for Summertime Entertainment, Cinema Foundation Study Says

Film fans are prioritizing discount tickets and premium large formats

imax theater
imax theater

In advance of CinemaCon next week in Las Vegas, the Cinema Foundation has released its new report on summer moviegoing. The study, entitled “The Value of a Movie Ticket: What Drives Consumers to Big-Screen Entertainment”, was conducted by the Quorum in partnership with the Cinema Foundation during the second week of April with more than 1,500 consumers participating.

General consumers were asked to choose only one form of out-of-home entertainment, representing the season’s best value. Going to the movies ranked higher than amusement parks, sporting events, musical concerts and live shows. Beyond that broad result, and to be fair amusement park tickets and live sports and concerts can be incredibly expensive on a per-person scale, the results included a few choice tidbits.

“Consumers recognize that moviegoing brings the biggest bang for their summer buck,” Cinema Foundation president Jackie Brenneman said. “Not only does the cinema remain the most affordable venue for out-of-home entertainment, but it’s also seen as offering the highest value, according to our survey of consumers. The movie theater provides that great escape we’re all demanding and the chance to share exciting experiences and tasty concessions with our family and friends this summer.”

In terms of ticket value, 80% of those polled believe that seeing a movie in a theater is reasonably priced as a group activity for friends or family, and 85% are excited about their recent theatrical experience. That merits interest as not only are people getting back into the moviegoing habit, they seem to be enjoying themselves both in terms of the movies being presented and the overall theatrical experience.

Meanwhile, 72% will attend premium large-format screens (think Imax, Dolby Cinema, AMC Prime or Cinemark XD) if they feel it enhances a particular movie’s experience. Moreover, 13% will only buy tickets to movies on PLF screens.

That stat is both unsurprising in terms of the last few years of moviegoing patterns and a little disconcerting. First, it obviously benefits the kind of big-budget, franchise-friendly, four-quadrant fare that typifies an Imax-worthy theatrical. Second, this thinking cannot help but kneecap the long-term performance of big movies that only keep their respective PLF screens for a week or two before the next biggie comes along.

Audiences were clearly willing to wait in order to see “Avatar: The Way of Water” on a preferred large-format screen even if that meant missing opening weekend, but did they in-turn skip out on “Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” or “John Wick: Chapter 4” after those films ended their weeklong Imax engagements? That points to a need for theater chains to make sure that every screen offers something bigger, louder and more vibrant than a stereotypical at-home HDTV-plus-sound bar experience.

Sixty-nine percent will look for earlier showtimes or special days to find the cheapest possible ticket, which shows that higher ticket prices are an issue and that perhaps chains need to further promote their subscription plans. Or, perhaps they need to offer family-friendly options so that an entire family can join AMC A-List for less than the price of four or five subscriptions.

Sixty-six percent are more likely to see movies on the weekend, while 67% feel there is a wide variety of choices in theaters this summer. Sixty-four percent swear that theater attendance won’t dip amid an economic downturn, and that they would first forsake other entertainment options.

In terms of concession sales, which of course are a key way in which multiplexes actually make money, 96% regularly buy snacks, drinks or (where applicable) meals while seeing a movie. 92% are selfless heroes who share their concessions with family and friends. Intriguingly, 76% argue that the dine-in theaters offer food comparable to what they’d find at a restaurant, while 58% say that price is not a factor in buying concessions.

Finally, 56% purchase concessions while taking advantage of rewards programs for refills and upgrades. So if you’re among those who opt for that large popcorn refill just because you can and then spend the rest of the day regretting it, you’re not alone.