Movie Theater Attendance Down 40% - Where Did They Go?

We now have a clearer picture of a post-pandemic entertainment world -- and it may not be a good picture for either movie theaters or streamers.

First-quarter 2022 attendance at movie theaters is still down more than 40% from the pre-pandemic 2019 first-quarter period. This aligns pretty well with box-office revenue estimates, which are down 43% through the first four months of 2022 versus 2019.

So that might lead to several conclusions to the question of where all those in-theater movie consumers have gone. To streaming? To broadcast and cable? To mobile -- or gazing into the metaverse space?

Streaming is continuing for sure -- now comprising 30% of all weekly TV viewing by those two years and older, according to Nielsen.

We don't have comparative numbers from the pre-pandemic 2019 period, since Nielsen only started up its Gauge measure a year ago in May 2021. Back then, Nielsen's Gauge, showed streaming with a 26% share. It is now at 29.5%.



That said, we know streaming growth -- at least in terms of subscribers -- has slowed down for those who have been in the game for a while -- including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

Some analysts say the return of big movie action and fantasy titles -- “Doctor Strange,” “The Batman” and other recent titles -- has meant the return of moviegoers. But these movies are only bringing back young moviegoers-- young men in particular.

And what about those mid-to smaller range, more adult-skewing films with zero special effects?  Analysts have not formed conclusions yet from the data. But the likely guess is that these movies are increasingly being viewed on streamers by older moviegoers -- perhaps some of the 40% or so who are apparently sitting on the sidelines.

Some analysts say that with the return of big movie action and fantasy titles like “Doctor Strange,” “The Batman” and other recent titles, so has been the return of moviegoers -- young men in particular. And what about those mid- to-smaller-range, more adult-skewing films with zero special effects? Analysts have not formed any conclusions yet from the data -- especially with that likely trend showing they are being viewed on streamers.

Still, one would guess it doesn't account for the disappearance of that 40% of those moviegoers who are apparently sitting on the sidelines.

There's a lot of content to consume on those big five streaming platforms -- including big movies seemingly intended for the big screen but arriving on the small screen instead. In addition, some of those lesser original, free, advertising video-on-demand [AVOD] services could be gaining.

And now the big summer movie season is arriving, which usually offers all kinds of films for both the younger and older crowd -- in what we would assume will be the first summer movie season with few pandemic-related issues to ding the business.

Who will be showing up in theaters in the next four months, and who is staying home but still watching movies -- or something else?

This story has been updated

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