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 Variety, Performance 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 point—Disney 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 agreement—that 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.