Terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., have become hot topics in the presidential race and dominated the media. Despite wide-spread anxiety about future attacks in public places, consumers aren’t planning to stop going to the movies.
Roughly eight in 10 moviegoers say they feel safe in movie theaters, according to consumer insight and consulting firm, C4. That’s equivalent to how secure they feel in their workplace (77%) or a store or mall (82%), and trumps their feeling of security in a concert (59%), a sporting event (58%), or airport (65%). It does trail how safe they feel in their home (97%).
The results are good news for the exhibition industry because “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hits theaters this weekend and is expected to shatter records for the highest-grossing opening weekend in history. The next two weeks are projected to be among the highest-grossing of the year for movie theaters because the release of “Star Wars” coincides with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
C4 polled 500 people who had seen six or more movies in the past year to see if their attitudes had been impacted by terror fears. Although they still view multiplexes as a safe space, most respondents believe that more needs to be done by movie theaters to prevent violent crimes from taking place. Only a third of moviegoers said they believed that theaters were doing enough to keep them safe.
The company conducted a similar survey last summer after a gunman killed two patrons and himself during a showing of “Trainwreck” in Lafayette, La., and in the wake of an attack during a Nashville screening of “Mad Max: Fury Road” left a hatchet and pellet gun-wielding assailant dead. At the time, C4 found that while audiences supported additional safety precautions at theaters, they weren’t planning to alter their moviegoing habits.
That attitude hasn’t changed. Just as before, fewer than one in 10 of those surveyed said the attacks would impact the number of movies they plan to see at the cinema. What’s remarkable is that these numbers come at a time when terrorism and national security are the primary concern of the American public. Just this week a Wall Street Journal and NBC News poll found that 71% of people believe that mass killings and violence have become a permanent part of life.
Ben Spergel, executive vice president of consumer insights at C4, said a major part of the reason the recent attacks haven’t shaped public attitudes toward moviegoing is that they did not take place in cinemas. However, consumers believe it is only a matter of time before there are killings of the kind that took place last summer in Louisiana or in Aurora, Colo., in 2012. Twenty-five percent of people said they expect another shooting incident will take place in a movie theater.
“People aren’t changing their behavior, but they’re changing their mindset,” Spergel said. “They’re accepting things that maybe a year or two years ago they wouldn’t consider.”
Indeed, the study found that moviegoers endorse certain measures by theaters to ramp up security. Forty-one percent of respondents said that there should be bag checks, up from 35% last summer. Thirty-four percent of those polled support armed guards in the lobby and 32% want metal detectors — essentially the same result as the first poll.
Installing guards or metal detectors adds a great deal to a movie theater’s bottom line, but moviegoers are willing to pay more for these measures. More than half of those surveyed would pay between $1 and $3 more per ticket for increased security, up from 48% last summer, while 23% would pay $3 or more extra, a 10% increase from the previous poll.
There are a number of factors that impact consumers’ feelings of security. More than half cited the location of the theater, 37% mentioned the size of a crowd and 25% said they felt less safe if the movie was controversial or popular. Some of these fears may be irrational, Spergel argued.
“People seem to believe these things won’t happen in good neighborhoods even though the Aurora shooting took place in a typical suburb,” he said.