New survey of moviegoers makes Hollywood happy

Despite worries about box office attendance, a recent survey of 2,000 moviegoers in nine cities reveals good news for Hollywood: five out of six or 83% assert they’re satisfied with the quality of current films.

“I think the satisfaction level was the biggest surprise to come out of the data,” said Mike Hunter, head of media and entertainment consulting with PA Consulting, during a presentation Tuesday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “The satisfaction with the quality of films was consistent everywhere we polled. So quality is not really a problem.”

However, the survey — taken during July and August among those ages 16 to 65 — showed a murky outlook for the future. Those polled aren’t planning to increase movie attendance or DVD watching over the next five years, and 5% said they plan to watch less TV.

A total of 58% of respondents said they go to movies regularly and 7% described themselves as patronizing films heavily. That number compared with 68% saying they watch DVDs regularly, 71% describing themselves as regular TV watchers and 78% saying they use the Internet regularly.

And in an indication that moviegoers are price-sensitive, 86% of respondents said they’d go to the movies more often if the prices were cut in half. And 77% said they’d boost their attendance if the price of DVDs increased.

PA Consulting, which performed the survey in consultation with the Motion Picture Assn. of America, will release the full survey results next week.

The study’s being released with domestic box office up about 4% over last year. Dean Garfield, exec VP and chief strategic officer for the MPAA, said the results were heartening but showed that keeping attendance up will be a challenge.

“A year ago, most of the stories about the business were doom and gloom, so the important question for industry is whether last year was an aberration,” he said.

About half the respondents were surveyed near theaters. PA Consulting conducted the surveys in six U.S. cities — Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Denver, Austin and Washington, D.C. — and in London, Frankfurt and Copenhagen.

Hunter said there was little variation in responses from city to city except on the issue of serving alcohol in theaters. “Americans just haven’t gotten their minds around that idea yet,” he added.

Hunter also noted that the only other exceptions came from Denmark. For example, 58% of those surveyed in Copenhagen said that box office performance had no influence on their moviegoing choices — far above the other cities, where only 25% said they weren’t affected by box office numbers.

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