Streaming Subscriptions and Movie Ticket Sales Rise Together, NATO Study Says

Commissioned study shows that those who subscribed to multiple streaming services were more likely to be frequent moviegoers

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A new study commissioned by the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), found that subscribers to multiple streaming services were also more likely to buy more movie tickets, a trend that the trade organization argues is a sign that the rising popularity of streamers is not a threat to the movie theater industry.

The study, which was conducted by Ernst & Young, involved a survey of 2,015 people who bought at least one movie ticket in the past year and an additional 505 people who did not buy any movie tickets. From this survey, 1,734 respondents were found that both bought at least one movie ticket and streamed an hour of online content per week over the last 12 months.

“For every race and age demographic, average streaming hours per week were higher for respondents who visited a movie theatre 9 times or more than respondents who visited a movie theatre only once or twice,” read EY’s report.

“Moreover, respondents who visited a movie theatre only once or twice in the last 12 months reported an average of 7 hours of streaming per week versus 12 hours of streaming per week for those who visited a movie theatre 9 or more times.”

In addition, the survey found that 53% of all respondents were more likely to stream a movie if they knew that it had been released in theaters, compared to 6% who said they were less likely. 41% said it did not have an impact on their decision to watch a film on streaming.

This is the third year that NATO has commissioned a study on the relationship between streaming viewing habits and frequency of movie ticket purchases, and similar results were yielded in 2018 and 2019. Over the past few years, NATO has argued that streaming services and movie theaters are not direct competitors but instead have a symbiotic relationship that can help increase customer interest in content released both theatrically and digitally.

It is an argument that they continue to make as Hollywood legacy studios like Disney, Warner Bros, and Universal have rolled out new streaming services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock. In an interview with TheWrap last November, NATO President John Fithian said he sees the new wave of streaming services as opportunities for exhibitors rather than a threat.

“We definitely think that HBO Max and other new streamers will try to adopt a synergistic strategy by picking the right types of movies for a theatrical run to help build the brand and make a profit in cinemas, or content for streaming services reinforces interest in similar titles like with documentaries,” he said. “This isn’t strictly a new concept. It’s just an old idea that we saw with things like straight-to-video and TV movies being adapted to a new medium.”