The number of frequent moviegoers in the all-important 18-24 age group plunged an unprecedented 17% in 2013, according to MPAA annual statistics released Tuesday at Cinemacon, while attendance in the 12-17 age bracket also saw a precipitous drop off, falling almost 15%.
Frequent filmgoers from 12-24 are likely spending much of their previous moviegoing time watching a variety of other screens.
But Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, sought to reassure theater owners that technology is no foe to the movie industry.
Though Dodd struck an optimistic note with his pronouncement that all ages have love for the movies regardless of how they’re consumed, his theory seems to contradict the statistics showing double digit drops in the percentage of younger frequent moviegoers.
“We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” Dodd insisted during his keynote address delivered Tuesday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
“We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings,” Dodd added.
In support of technology, the MPAA revealed that those who generally go to the movies more own more mobile devices — 74% of frequent moviegoers have at least four tech gadgets.
John Fithian, prexy of the National Assn. of Theater Owners, said that diversity in product and experience are the key ways to combat the youth decline, though he added that watching movies — even on tablets or mobile devices — can be beneficial for exhibitors.
“People having lots of ways to watch movies is great for us,” Fithian said during a press conference after the presentation. “They’re embracing the culture of loving the movies.”
On the bright side, the number of frequent moviegoers aged 2-11 grew last year to 4.3 million, up 54% over 2012.
Fithian said by making the moviegoing experience more diverse, exhibs can appeal to auds of all ages.
“For parents who want a night out, the idea of integrating the experience (to include the kids) helps makes movies more accessible to people who have time crunch,” Fithian said.
When it comes to technology being a friend to the movies, Dodd is sticking to his guns.
“This notion that somehow you have to choose sides is one that I couldn’t understand since the day I started this job,” Dodd said. “The reality is that technology without content is just technology.”