Viewing habits have been steadily shifting over the last decade, primarily with a swing toward streaming. But up until recently, it seemed as though movie-watchers still enjoyed going to the theater to catch the newest release. Now, new research from Parks Associates shows one-quarter of US broadband households say they would rather watch a new movie at home on an OTT subscription service than opt for the theatrical experience. With multiple options for watching new releases, just 24% still prefer movie theaters to experience first-run movie titles.
“COVID-19 has upended the traditional content-windowing process, and consumer research shows this paradigm shift is impacting consumer attitudes,” said Steve Nason, Research Director, Parks Associates. “An OTT source scores higher than movie theaters when consumers report their preferences for first-run movies. This shift might be temporary, and nearly 30% have no preference for how to watch a new movie, which gives theaters a glimmer of hope they can eventually gain back some audience for first-run titles.”
Streamers are taking advantage of this newfound niche by releasing many titles straight to streaming. WarnerBros recently announced all of its upcoming new releases for 2021 will hit HBO Max the same day as theaters, so viewers have the option of how they want to watch. Disney is also jumping on the trend, saying its upcoming titles will be a mix of streaming and theatrical releases.
It’s obvious that theater chains are hoping this shift in viewing preferences is temporary, as the current pandemic has caused major financial problems for exhibitors. For example, AMC estimates it needs the first part of 2021 to see attendance rise to approximately 20% of pre-COVID 2019 levels, and reach 85% of pre-COVID 2019 attendance levels by the last half of 2021 in order to stay afloat. With WarnerBros and now Disney both announcing major changes in the box office releases, AMC’s future is looking fairly bleak.