Cinema attendance well below historical standards

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Highlights of History

  • American adults saw an average of 1.4 movies in theaters over the past 12 months
  • 61% of Americans haven’t seen a movie in a theater in the past year
  • Young adults, those in cities and suburbs saw more movies than their counterparts

WASHINGTON, DC – Americans watched an average of 1.4 movies in a movie theater in the past 12 months. This includes a record 61% who have not visited a theater at all, 31% who have seen between one and four movies and 9% who have attended five or more movies.

Gallup tracked American adult movie attendance using this question periodically between 1988 and 1995, then more regularly from 2001 to 2007. The latest reading is from a Gallup poll from December 1 to 16, the first since 2007, and it shows a portion of Americans who stayed home after leaving movie theaters. Between 2001 and 2007, American adults watched an average of 4.8 movies in theaters, 32% of which never saw any.

American movie theater attendance

How many movies, if any, have you attended in a movie theater in the past 12 months?

2001-2007 medium 2021
Medium 4.8 movies 1.4 movies
% %
Nothing 32 61
1-4 39 31
5 or more 29 9
gallley

Attendance at films is also on the decline among moviegoers. In 2021, those who attended a movie saw an average of 3.6 movies, up from 6.9 in December 2007, and no less than 5.7 in any other Gallup survey.

The difference is likely due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the nationwide shutdown of the two film sets where films are shot and theaters where they are shown. Attendance appears to remain depressed even with theaters now open and vaccinations available to most Americans, suggesting the public continues to be concerned about catching COVID-19 at indoor establishments like theaters.

However, with no readings between 2007 and 2021, it’s unclear how much indoor attendance had already declined before the pandemic. Data from a similar question in a 2019 Gallup poll found that movie attendance was already lower than in 2001. This trend was also documented by film industry analysts, who noted that an increase home streaming services led to a decline in movie theater attendance.

Age and urbanity show the biggest differences in cinema going habits

Movie theater attendance is down in all demographic subgroups compared to 2007 readings. Yet significant differences in movie theater attendance patterns are evident among several groups, including age and height. ‘urbanity.

Young adults under 30 reported seeing an average of 3.2 films in theaters over the past year, while those aged 30 to 49 saw around half (1.4), 50 at 64 saw an average of 0.8 and those at 65. and older on average 0.5 films.

At the same time, residents of cities and suburbs reported seeing twice as many films as those in more rural areas – 1.7 versus 0.8.

Average number of theatrical films seen by Americans in 2007 and 2021, among subgroups

Average number of movies seen in a movie theater in the past 12 months

2007 2021
Age
18-29 9.1 3.2
30-49 4.5 1.4
50-64 3.1 0.8
65 and over 2.0 0.5
Urbanity
City 5.6 1.7
Suburb 4.1 1.7
City / Rural 3.4 0.8
gallley

Final result

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the film industry was facing a drop in demand for theatrical viewing brought on by more in-home options. And then the pandemic took a heavy toll on the industry – both in terms of ticket production and sales. While the three in five Americans who have not gone to the movies in the past 12 months are likely bloated from the pandemic, the industry grapples with the habits Americans have fallen into at home may be an obstacle to their return to theaters at the end of the pandemic. Additionally, movie theaters may have fewer offerings for their customers, given staffing issues and slowing movie production.

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