In a troubling sign for the exhibition industry, a new survey has found that the majority of consumers now prefer to watch new movies at home as fears about the Chinese coronavirus continue to outweigh the urge to go out.
The study — which polled 1,000 consumers — asked if they would prefer to watch a new movie as a digital rental at home or in a traditional cinema.
An overwhelming 70 percent of respondents said they are more likely to watch it at home while just 13 percent said they are more likely to venture out to the cinema. The remaining 17 percent of those polled said they were unsure.
The study was performed by the analytics firm Performance Research, in partnership with Full Circle Research Co. The results were published Wednesday in Variety.
“Just as the country begins to open up there has been a swing toward increasing caution, with a majority of Americans clearly saying ‘not yet’ when it comes to attending large public events,” Jed Pearsall, president of Performance Research, told the Hollywood trade publication.
Movie theaters around the country shut down in late March as the Chinese virus surged through the U.S. Except for a small number of cinemas, the vast majority of theaters remain closed. The indefinite hiatus has put the future of major chains including AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas in jeopardy.
The major Hollywood studios are using the forced shutdown to experiment with releasing some of their titles directly to digital home video. Universal’s animated musical Trolls World Tour was the first major studio title to skip cinemas during the outbreak, followed recently by Warner Bros.’ animated Scoob!
NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell recently said that more titles will skip movie theaters going forward.
“I would expect that consumers will return to the theaters and we will be part of that. And I also expect that PVOD [premium video on demand] is going to be a part of that in some way. It’s not a replacement, it’s going to be a complementary element,” he said during an earnings call in April.
His statements — as well as the digital success of Trolls World Tour — prompted AMC Theatres to say that its cinemas won’t show Universal movies in the future.
The U.S. box office has been in decline in recent years as Netflix and other streaming options have kept more Americans at home. Last year’s domestic office dropped nearly 4 percent, its largest decline in five years.