Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

What Boomers Want: Insights into Cinema Experience Preferences and Behaviors

Baby Boomers love to see movies on the big screen, and their experience is even better if they’re watching in a comfy recliner seat or taking in the show with premium sound. In addition, to enhance the occasion further, they’re likely to enjoy a flick with popcorn and drinks purchased from the concession counter.

spinner image Mature couple eating popcorn at the movies

That’s just some of the telling information garnered from an AARP Movies for Grownups survey about movie-going habits of Americans. The national online survey examined the entertainment preferences of 1,893 respondents by generation—Millennials (21-37), GenXers (38-53) and Boomers (54-72).

The draw

The survey results showed that over 70% of Boomers go to the movies at least once a year, including 22% who go once a month or more. Among younger (ages 54-62) Boomers, 29% attend the movies at least once a month.

What draws Boomers to the theater?  Most said a new release might spark their interest, or that they want to see an actor they like. About one-third said they go just for “something to do.”

Heading to the theater is more often a date night for Millennials (36%) and GenXers (35%) than Boomers (11%). If they really want to see a movie, about two-thirds of adult movie-goers surveyed said they don’t mind going alone, although only about 21% report typically going solo.

Most Boomers (64%) learn about movies by traditional advertising, while 48% are influenced by family and friends and 29% from television shows. Online influences play a larger role for Millennials (77%) and GenXers (52%) than Boomers (29%.)

Notably, the story concerning modern theater amenities is one of appeal and awareness. While 56% of Boomers know about recliner seats, and just over half (51%) have experienced them, those who have used them express enthusiasm. Similar results came to light in the survey regarding large screens and premium sound, as well as theater bars (stay tuned for more on that later).

One possible untapped opportunity from a theater industry perspective: When asked about potential additional forms of entertainment that could be offered at theaters, Boomer movie-goers expressed the greatest interest in movie classics (66%).

The experience

Saturday is the most popular day that Americans hit the theaters. Boomers tend to go to the movies either during a weekend matinee or evening show on the weekends, leaning toward the early evening show timeslot more than other generations; in addition weekday matinees are a popular option for them.

Once in the theater, getting treats are a big part of the experience for Boomer movie-goers. The AARP survey found about six in 10 buy concessions most or every time they go to the movies. The most popular order?  Good ole popcorn and soda.

While many Boomer movie-goers show less awareness of more recent theater offerings such as bar service, about half of them who are aware said that they order from the bar most or every time they attend a movie. If these older adults could augment the concession menu, some respondents would like to see coffee, hot chocolate and healthy snacks added.

Typically, Boomers go straight to and from the theater. Millennials (44%) and GenXers (41%) are more likely than Boomers (33%) to add on a meal or other activity to a movie outing to make a day or evening of the affair.

Increasing theater going

Boomers love a bargain. The survey revealed, among special offer options available, older adult movie-goers are most interested in off-peak discounts. 

When it comes to purchasing tickets, Boomers prefer to buy at the theater with an open seating experience. About 29% of Millennials and 22% GenXers buy tickets online, ahead of time, compared to 11% of Boomers.

Many theaters are upgrading and Boomers were enthused about the variety of newer movie experiences, including large screens, recliners, and premium sound.  About 60% of Boomers who checked out a premium sound show or recliner said they “loved” it, the survey showed. Younger generations are more aware and have had more exposure to these various amenities than Boomers.

The AARP online survey was conducted among males and females age 18+ in February-March 2018. Final data have been weighted to the U.S. Census for analysis, by generation. For more information contact Vicki Gelfeld at