U.S. box office grosses were better than they’ve been over the holiday weekend, but were still down around 50% from Thanksgiving weekend in recent pre-pandemic years, as a survey is released showing why some theatergoers aren’t going back.  The U.S. box office take over the five day Thanksgiving weekend was $142 million, according to Variety, which is down almost 50% from the same weekend in 2019, and over 50% from Thanksgiving weekend 2018.  A new survey of theatergoers illustrates some of the reasons, not all of which are related to the pandemic.

Three firms, The Quorum, Cultique, and Fanthropology, commissioned a survey of over 2,500 people that attended movies in 2019 and posted the results online.  They broke the respondents down into five groups: avids, infrequents, reluctants, hopefuls, and likely losts.  Only about 50% of people that went to a movie in 2019 are currently regular moviegoers (avids and infrequents), while half are not.  Of the half that aren’t gong to theaters, a significant percentage, around 8% of all people that attended movies in 2019, are likely never going to return to theaters, the study found.

Safety concerns are a big issue for the remainder of former theatergoers that aren’t going to the movies, especially since the Delta surge began.  Vaccine requirements to go to theaters would be a net positive for attendance, the study found.

Other issues predate the pandemic but have been amplified by safety concerns, including high concession prices and theaters with older seats and smaller screens.

Young men have been returning to regular theatergoing in greater numbers than other groups, with other demographic groups staying away in big numbers.  We wonder whether that could be due, at least in part, to the fact that genre blockbusters are still being released in theaters while adult dramas and kids fare has been more frequently headed straight to streaming platforms.

Streaming series and features have taken on increased importance in the business of geek culture during the pandemic, often driving game, comic, and merch sales more reliably than theatrical releases.  From the results of this survey, it appears that some of those changes are here to stay.