Survey Says Most People Prefer Watching New Releases at Home

Wonder Woman 1984
Sure. We prefer the theatrical experience, but I'm not literally dying to see Tenet

The first changer came in July when AMC Theaters and Universal Pictures collapsed the traditional 90-day theatrical window to as little as 17 days before offering first-run features on premium VOD for about $20. 

That was when people started to understand the monumental shift coming for the industry. 

Well, according to VarietyPerformance Research in partnership with Full Circle Research performed a survey of over 1000 people and found that nearly twice as many people said that they would wait 90-days to see a movie at home than expressed a desire to see it first in a theater. And they weren't referring to a theater right now, they were referring to a safe, corona-free theater in the future

The numbers here indicate a huge change in the way we understand distribution. Only 12% said they would definitely see a movie in a theater first if there was a 90-day wait to watch it. That means many people would wait for Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, or maybe even West Side Story, just to avoid going out.

Of course, that assumes the VOD is at a $20 price pointDisney is pushing $30 right now. 

Still, 21% said they would probably wait to watch at home and 23% said they would definitely wait.

Of course, these numbers varied when it came to specific movies. 

Over 50% of people would prefer to see Tenet in theaters, but only 16% said they would ONLY see it that way. 

What about the charm of the theater with the safety of your home? 

I'm talking about drive-in theaters. 

According to the survey, 42% said they are very interested in attending a drive-in movie, and another 31% said they’re somewhat interested. Only 8% said they’ve done it already since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

These numbers obviously show where the industry is going. 

We are at a crossroads.

People want to deliver a lot of content that's easily accessible, but they also want to make the kind of money they are used to with theatrical distribution. These kinds of questions are what's chaffing at all executives right now. 

A similar study was done back in May, except the study asked 1000 people if they'd prefer to see a firstrun movie at home or in a theater if the cost was the same. A whopping 70% said they'd prefer watching at home, while just 13% said they'd prefer the theater. Of course, the study poses a slightly different question at a very different time in the COVID-19 crisis.

While the markup on putting movies in theaters means you can make more online, filmmakers want their work to hit the big screen, not just people's laptops. Still, during COVID, these companies are suffering and need to make money.

We opened this piece with Universal's 17-day agreementthat feels like the way it's all going now. 

And maybe that window needs to be embraced in order for theaters, as we know them, to survive. 

What do you think is next? 

Let us know in the comments.      

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I feel the cinema industry has only itself to blame.

I used to love going to the cinema, was a member of 'art cinema clubs', I would go at least once a week although it was still always a special occasion for me. An evening to see a film was usually followed up with a few drinks and a chat to discuss what we'd seen. As a child, Saturday morning cinema was really exciting.

But the industry seemed to want to sell itself out to 'mass consumption'. Cinemas became 'feed silos', intent of selling as much edible 'crap' to the punters as it could. The environment now reminds me of factory farming.

People munch loudly and talk all the way through, use their phones throughout the film. It came to a point where almost every film I went to I'd have to ask someone to 'shut up'. I don't want that, it wasn't like that.

The last time I went to a cinema, to see a film for myself, was Avatar. You'll never get me going back again, it's a diminished experience. Maybe they could put the fun, and the spectacle back into it? As a lifelong enthusiast, they must have been doing something wrong to kill the whole experience of cinema for me.

Just saw 'Judgement in Nuremberg' for the first time today, now that moved me.

August 19, 2020 at 3:52PM


Well if 1000 people said it, it must be true for for all 246 million moviegoers (that would include Canada) .... statistically insignificant sample size.

August 20, 2020 at 8:12AM


Cinemas faced an existential threat in the middle of the previous century as well. Their solution was to overhaul the theatrical experience with things like CinemaScope, PanaVision, 3D, etc. I think the solution for cinemas going forward is to give people a worthwhile excuse to leave their home. Alamo Drafthouse is setting a great example of how it's done, particularly with their zero tolerance policy for talking, cell phones, and showing up late, which thankfully they also enforce.

August 21, 2020 at 9:36AM