Bad news for movie theaters: most Americans prefer new releases on streamers

A new poll has produced some concerning news for American movie theaters. It turns out that two-thirds of US adults would rather wait for new movies to be released on streaming than watch them on the big screen.

Just a few days after Emma Stone won the Oscar for best actress for Poor Things, the movie is already freely available for subscribers of Disney+, a streaming platform.

That’s how most Americans prefer to watch even the best and the most popular new movies nowadays, apparently. A new survey by HarrisX commissioned by IndieWire has found that only 34% of US adults now favor going to movie theaters over watching content on streaming platforms.

53% of respondents who prefer to wait for movies to be released on streaming say that movie tickets are now just too expensive, and 40% cited the comfort of viewing at home as the main reason for waiting.

23% said they had concerns over sanitation and hygiene, and 22% admitted they’re annoyed that they can’t pause the movie when they need to visit the loo. That’s a valid one as quite a few movies are now very long – Poor Things lasts 144 minutes, for example.

Other factors include distractions from other movie-goers, inconvenient travel or show times, poor movie selection, and even limited seat selection.

The trend comes just as Hollywood is recovering from both the Covid pandemic and the union strikes that hit the entertainment industry in 2023.

But the film companies aren’t sitting idle: the poll helps explain why some of them simultaneously launch their offerings in theaters and on streaming services, or cap a movie’s theatrical run with an immediate streaming release. Again, this has happened with Poor Things.

Nevertheless, 59% of those who like going to theaters say they enjoy the experience of watching movies on the big screen. Forty-seven percent say they like the better sound system, and 39% simply want to escape from distractions at home.

A quarter of respondents said they preferred to watch movies with an audience while 24% chose nostalgia as the reason for driving out to the movie theater.

Subscribing to major streamers is definitely cheaper than regularly buying movie tickets, especially since most platforms launched less expensive ad-based tiers. Apple TV+ is the latest streamer reportedly getting ready to introduce ads as well.

Besides, commercial breaks on streaming services are apparently not that annoying to American consumers, with new research showing that users are increasingly opting for ads in exchange for savings on their subscription costs.

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