COVID, Less Ads Impact Movie Viewers, But Other Reasons Persist

Big, in-theater ills are chronic, given the pandemic. But content is also playing a role.

A recent Harris poll of 1,022 adults said COVID-19 issues were still a major reason not to go to movie theaters -- 56% of people point to that, with another 20% citing the fear theaters aren’t clean.

But another -- not-so-insignificant -- 22% revealed something else: They are not interested in the movies in theaters or expected. Another 19% said they would rather watch a movie via a streaming platform at home.

Yes, we understand consumer surveys can offer “soft research,” according to analysts. But a major factor could also be the lack of studio advertising, promotion, earning media and promotion.

Major blockblusters intended for summer releases -- as well as any big films for the holiday season -- have been shelved, or postponed well into 2021. The  hope is a big box-office six months to a year from now.



What remains are some theater showings of mostly small budget films.

As we wait, consumers might look elsewhere -- change their behavior or watch more streaming services.

Disney’s recent theatrically intended movie “Mulan” had a price tag of $29.99 on the Disney+ streaming service when it launched earlier this year.

After its opening weekend in September, estimates were it pulled in $35 million for Disney+ -- which many analysts say would be weak results, if not a failure in theaters. A typical forecast for in-theater distribution for a movie of this type would estimate at least $100 million to $150 million for an opening weekend.

Still, Disney got residual benefits. Consumers spent lot of time on the new streaming service after signing into the “Mulan” screening, something the company continues emphasize.

Much of this streaming-connected behavior looks to continue with the ongoing lack of holiday movie studio spending -- especially with the augur of COVID-19 rising.

What remains in the near term when theaters reopen next year? Big title fantasy/action franchises attracting younger, loyal, ongoing theater consumers. But would that be enough to keep the theatrical movie business going long-term?

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