The movie business has long been worried that it suffers from an aging customer base, with younger viewers abandoning multiplexes for the pleasures and convenience of Netflix or video games.
A new study by Fandango, an online ticketer that admittedly does have a dog in this fight, indicates that so-called millennials, customers between the ages of 18 to 34, are planning to turn out in force at cinemas this holiday season. They’ll be lured there by new amenities such as recliners, as well as a series of yuletide blockbuster hopefuls that include “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
Fandango polled more than 1,500 millennial moviegoers over the past month and found that 86% of millennials say they plan to see at least two movies on the big screen, while 34% plan to see four or more movies. The news stands in stark contrast to recent studies by the Motion Picture Association of America that found steady declines in this age bracket over the last five years.
“It’s always the hot topic,” said Adam Rockmore, Fandango SVP and head of marketing and communications. “Are younger people still going to the movies? Are they still interested in leaving the house and doing something other than streaming movies? Based on this data they are.”
The company said that millennials continue to be a big part of their user base, with 41% of its monthly audience, comprising some 22 million customers, hailing from that age group.
Fandango also polled millennials about their moviegoing decision process and found that 47% decide to watch a movie because of a strong storyline, 23% pick what movie to see based on its trailer, 9% weigh reviews or critic scoring rating sites such as Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic, 5% look to user reviews, and 5% identify the stars as the main reason to buy a ticket. The percentages point to dwindling star power among Hollywood actors — gone, it seems, where a name above the title could guarantee a movie opening.
Sixty five percent of millennials identified reclining seats as their favorite amenity, while 56% cited premium large screen formats such as IMAX and amped up sound systems as the features that draw them to theaters. In terms of when they check out new releases, 44% of millennials say they are most likely to see a new movie on opening night or weekend, and 29% will go within the first week of release
In a sign of an increasingly mobile world, 58% of those surveyed say they purchase advance tickets online or through an app, while 78% of millennials said they send individual or group text messages to friends when making their movie-going plans. That dovetails with how Fandango customers are buying tickets. This year, 72% of Fandango’s ticket sales were sold on mobile devices. In contrast, the mobile share of ticket sales was only 29% in 2012.
Of the big studio films debuting in theaters the rest of this month, the top five picks for films to see are:
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
3. Pitch Perfect 3
4. The Greatest Showman
Millennials’ top five picks for current indie movies are:
1. The Shape of Water
2. The Disaster Artist
3. Lady Bird
4. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
5. I, Tonya
The interest in these titles comes on the heels of several bruising months for the movie business. The summer box office hit its lowest levels in decades and theatrical revenues for the year are down nearly 4% from 2017. But the holiday season could help narrow the gap. Rockmore believes part of what the season has going for it are a mixture of genres. There’s something for everyone, he reasons.
“It’s going to be a real robust December,” predicts Rockmore. “There’s a great diversity of choices and that’s always a good thing.”