Has the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out our love of going to the movies at the theater forever? Sadly, maybe so — especially when it comes to grownup moviegoers. A recent study by The Quorum, a film research firm, found that nearly half of people who bought theater tickets before COVID have since kicked the moviegoing habit. About 8 percent of former moviegoers say they’re not planning on coming back.
Grownups seem even more reluctant. “The over-50 crowd — which I just joined this year — feels much less safe in a movie theater than the general public,” says study author David Herrin. “About 44 percent of the over-50 crowd say they feel safe. For the general public, it was closer to 62 percent.” Though he cautions that the over-50 contingent in his poll respondents was a small subset, the numbers look plausible.
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What will it take to bring moviegoers back into theaters?
About one-third of moviegoers of all ages said they were hopeful about going back, if only theater owners would clean up their act. “People said, ‘I would go more often if the price of popcorn and soda were cheaper, if there were vegan options, craft cocktails, or if theaters featured local foods,’ ” says Herrin. “When I go to a baseball game in Philadelphia, I can get a cheesesteak, right? Why don’t movie theaters offer the same kind of local cuisine that sports venues do?”
Those polled cited several improvements theaters might make to win fans back, like policing cellphone abusers and lowering ticket prices. “Other drivers of interest would be newer seats, more space between the seats, the ability to order food from your seat, and fewer commercials in the trailers,” says Herrin. “None of these motivations scored as well with the over-50 crowd, except for two: they wanted newer seats, and more space between seats.”
Herrin and other industry experts told AARP to expect several trends in the movie future, once the pandemic begins to subside.