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Most Consumers Wouldn’t Pay $25 or $50 for Day-and-Date Movies at Home, Survey Shows

Movie patrons are a price-sensitive group, and many can be turned off if they think a show is too expensive or too difficult to attend — tendencies that keep many fans away from theaters, a new survey commissioned by Variety suggests.

Still, only a small percentage say they’d pay $25 or $50 to see a film at home on the same day it opens in theaters, the survey by CivicScience found. And yet that subset — when spread across the entire population — could create a substantial enough audience to encourage entertainment companies to move ahead with plans to shorten the traditional 90-day window between a movie’s release in theaters and in the home.

Those are the most significant takeaways from questions asked of more than 1,800 Americans in late February and early March by CivicScience, a Pittsburgh-based market-research firm that surveys a representative sample of consumers via questions embedded on hundreds of websites.

The survey finds that the vast majority of American consumers take a dim view of proposals currently floating around the movie business to charge consumers $50 to see a movie in their living room at the same time it opens in theaters. Seventy-eight percent of respondents say the price is too expensive, and only 5% saying they’d definitely pay. When the hypothetical price point drops to $25, respondents’ answers to the same question are slightly more positive, with 64% saying the cost is too pricey and 13% saying they’d definitely pay to watch at home.

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CivicScience founder and CEO John Dick says experience has taught him that many respondents are quick to deem price points for goods and services “too expensive” in the abstract, but that might not reflect their behavior in the real world.

If consumers pause to calculate how much they might spend for their entire family at the movie theater, especially with snacks thrown in, they could be more likely to see the suggested $25 or $50 at-home prices as less than exorbitant.

Moreover, the small percentage of patrons who say they’d pay for day-and-date in-home viewing looms much larger when the figures are applied across all U.S. consumers, Dick says. “Five percent may not sound like a lot, but that’s a tremendous number when spread across the entire population,” he notes.

With roughly 260 million Americans fitting within the 13-years-old-and-up category, 5% would equate to 13 million customers saying they’d definitely spend $50 for a first-run-movie experience at home. That figure would leap to nearly 34 million people, based on the 13% who say they’d pay $25.

Anything close to such huge defections from the multiplex obviously would be extremely troubling to theater owners. No wonder, then, that advocates of early at-home VOD movie experiences have talked about the need to cut exhibitors in on a significant share of those receipts.

Variety and CivicScience also asked customers the main reason they go to movies less than they have in the past. The results show that price and convenience are, again, primary concerns.

CivicScience surveyed a minimum of 1,863 people aged 13 and older for each question posed by Variety, weighting the responses to correspond to demographics determined by the U.S. Census. The margin of error for the results is estimated to be plus or minus 2%.

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