The global movie business has seen turbulent times over the last few years, with changing consumer behaviour worrying many executives.
To get a clearer picture of the current landscape, we surveyed a nationally representative sample of 229 UK residents, to bring you the most important UK film industry statistics for 2017.
On a global level, the popularity of going to the cinema has never been greater. Despite the multiple screens encroaching on our everyday lives, the allure of the Silver Screen not only endures, but is actually growing.
Our most recent survey sheds more light on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what drives people to buy tickets in the UK – essential insight for the industry if it’s to achieve more record-breaking numbers in 2017 and beyond.
A popular treat
Our data shows that heading to the cinema remains a popular – and regular – treat with just over a fifth of people catching the latest release once a month, and further 19% going even more regularly (2-3 times a month).
Another 34% of Britons make a visit once every few months, while a keen minority of film buffs (9%) head out to the cinema at least once a week.
Going to the movies is a particularly popular pastime amongst seniors, with 47% of people aged 60 and over going at least once a month (more than double the national average).
Interestingly in the same age category, women appear to be the bigger film fans, with more than half going at least once a month, while 75% of men aged 60 and over only make it once every few months.
Amongst the overall population (regardless of age), men are twice as likely as women to be frequent movie-goers and see a screening once a week. Young men (those aged 30 or under) were even more likely to be at the cinema at least once a week – 3x the national average – a phenomenon perhaps explained by the never-ending wave of superhero franchises and action-packed blockbuster remakes hitting the screens.
Personal finances definitely affect how often we go to the cinema, with an incredible 83% of those who earn above £75k annually going once a month (compared to a national average of 22%). On the other hand, those who earn less than £25k are more likely to be infrequent moviegoers.
Box office hits
What do people most like about the cinema experience?
Back in the early 1800s, the popping of corn kernels was considered to be a form of entertainment in itself. Today our data shows that popcorn is still considered an integral part of the cinema experience.
Just like the perfect pairing of wine and cheese, baseball and hot dogs, there is movies and popcorn. The allure on diving your hand into a bucket of freshly popped corn, munching quietly away whilst enjoying the latest blockbuster remains a popular draw card. As one moviegoer comments, “it’s nice to go to the cinema and have some popcorn!”
However the biggest motivator is to watch the movie on a big screen, followed closely by the big, loud sounds that accompany the pictures. The aforementioned popcorn and snacks were the next most popular thing for people to enjoy, followed by the ability to share an experience with friends a family.
Small screens may dominate our everyday lives but many are still drawn to watching the latest blockbuster on the big screen as a social outing and form of escapism
The whole experience is nicely summed up by one person who says “I like the impact it has on you regarding the vision and sound quality, and the fact it wows you and gets you talking with friends and family.”
Interestingly one response said they “Love the fact that can’t get up and go do chores and miss the film.”
The other notable reason for people enjoying the cinema experience was the comfort of the theatre itself, especially the theatre seats.
Box office flops
The biggest turn off for moviegoers is enduring the presence of those that break the unspoken rules of cinema – patrons eating loudly and talking throughout the film.
This was followed closely by the overall cost of buying cinema tickets, and then the expense of popcorn and snacks when there.
This particular response hit the nail on the head for the majority of gripes, “On certain occasions it takes the pleasure out of the cinema experience when there may be people chatting or eating noisily – also the price is rising to watch a movie.”
What’s the hero when it comes to purchase behaviour?
What has the biggest impact on purchasing decisions when it comes to buying cinema tickets? That is quite literally the multi-billion dollar question.
And the answer is quite clear.
Good ol’ fashioned advertising – particularly in the form of trailers and posters – are not only how most people learn what movies are out; but which ones they want to see.
54% of the UK rely on advertising to find out about new movies, with 18% tapping into their personal network of friends and family, and 14% turning to ‘traditional media’ such as newspapers, magazines or TV. 8% get their updates from fan blogs or social media, while just 6% rely on aggregation review sites like IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes
Things look a little different when you segment by how frequently people attend the cinema though.
Frequent moviegoers (those who go at least once a week) were almost twice as likely to learn about new films through aggregators, and much less likely to find out from friends and family.
Moderator film fans (those who go 2-3 times a month and at least once) were also more likely than the national average to use aggregator sites, though they relied more heavily on friends and family too.
Advertising has the greatest impact on those less frequent moviegoers, along with social media.
Once people know about a movie, we wanted to find out if certain factors would be more likely to influence them to purchase a ticket.
Please rank which of these has most influence over your decision to see a movie at the cinema?
As you can see, official trailers, posters and other ads are the single most influential factor in driving ticket sales.
This has to be great news to studios, who essentially control their own fate. A compelling pre-launch campaign almost guarantees a successful opening weekend, regardless of initial reviews on aggregator sites like IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes.
We’re not sure whether this is good or bad news for director’s like Brett Ratner, who recently decried the power of these very same sites to make or break a movie. The data would suggest this just isn’t true, and fans make their own minds up.
On the flip side, these findings also highlight that there is a lot of pressure to get the pre-release promotion just right, because an underwhelming campaign could spell disaster – particularly if paired with negative word of mouth from friends a family, which we see is the second most important influence on purchase decisions.
These findings are also worrying for those who make a living as a critic, with every type of moviegoer – from frequent to infrequent – rating reviews from professional critics as the 2nd least influential factor in their decision making process.
The end of star power?
What other criteria come into play when people make up their mind to go to the cinema (or not)?Please rank these factors in importance for deciding if you’ll go and see a movie at the cinema?
First and foremost, people stick to the genres they like, and as seen above, a good trailer is paramount.
See: Best movie trailers of all time
for some inspiration here.
What’s interesting about these results is how low down ‘star power’ appears, with actors/actresses coming behind reviews as a consideration factor (and from the previous results we know that reviews are not very influential!)
This certainly suggests that big name actors and actresses may not have quite the pull factor that people assume they do.
We can also see that the time of big name directors may also be numbered (Spielberg who?), with it firmly rooted to the bottom of most influential factors when deciding on whether or not to see a movie at the cinema.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the cost of a ticket is also down near the bottom of consideration factors. This is good news for cinemas, as it just proves the elasticity of demand, which we can also see in the comments, where a large number of people complain about the price, but they stump up anyway.
Streaming: Friend or Foe?
With the rise and rise in popularity of streaming TV and movies in the UK, many are asking whether this is a threat or an opportunity?If you could watch the latest movies streamed in your living room (at a reasonable price), would you…
The results show that it currently looks like more a threat.
46% of respondents would go to the cinema less, while 24% would probably stop going entirely in favour of watching the latest releases from the comfort of their own home. Just 11% would prefer going to the cinema in favour of watching a new release at home, with 19% expecting it would simply allow them to consume even more movies.
Looking more closely, males and Londoners are particularly susceptible to the allure of watching movies at home and not going to the cinema. However it’s those aged 30-40 who are most likely to opt out of the cinema experience, with just 1.6% saying they like the cinema enough to eschew streaming in favour of going out.
One demographic will likely stay loyal to their local cinema though – and that is renters. Bad housemates or lack of living room space may be part of the reason why those who rent needing a chance to escape, with just 3% of respondents in this category suggesting they would stop going to the cinema despite streaming services being made available.
At what price-point would potential streamers be tempted to switch over and watch new releases at home? To find out, we asked how much would you be willing to pay for a one-time stream of the latest movie release.How much would you be willing to pay for a one-time stream of the latest cinema release?
When it comes to a one-time stream, over a quarter of respondents are happy to part with a fiver for the convenience, and a further 25% would pay £3. At that price, we’re not sure the economics would stack up for studios though.
However just under a third (29%) would pay £8 or £10, which may be getting closer to the kind of price-point that would make it worthwhile.
Young adults aged 19-30 seem to be the least price-sensitive when it comes to streaming, with more willing to cough up £10 for this service.
People working in the capital are most likely to pay £12, being twice as likely as the rest of the UK to be happy with that price point. Those with children are less lavish, with a higher than average likelihood to pay just £3.
The realities of VR in cinema
There is plenty of buzz around VR, and almost an equal amount of skepticism too. But pundits and the media don’t really matter – it’s how consumers feel about the technology that will dictate its success.How excited are you about the idea of watching movies in Virtual Reality?
The results show that excitement is in the air when it comes to watching movies in virtual reality (VR) with over 40% of respondents excited or very excited by the prospect. Generation Z (18 and younger) were most enthused, with over 60% excited or very excited about watching movies in VR.
However, a third of respondents remain on the fence when it comes to watching movies in VR, with almost a quarter actively uninterested.
The next adaptation
Books adaptations can prove to be a winning formula when it comes to creating the next box office hit with many famous book series (Harry Potter, James Bond, The Lord of the Rings) making it into the top grossing movie franchises of all time.
So we asked which book our audience would most like to see adapted into a movie?
Disney’s latest endeavour of turning its animated films (originally based on books) into live action feature films is a crowd pleaser with many respondents submitting their old favourites (Aladdin, Mary Poppins) to be given a new lease of life.
And with these turbulent political times, people would also like to see a reboot of English political novelist George Orwell classics Animal Farm and 1984, which started trending in sales on Amazon just after the election of Trump.
These results make for a cheery viewing to those in the movie business.
We can see that price rises – while not exactly welcome – are not hampering demand for the cinema experience; and while the idea of streaming new releases could post a threat in the future, the economics of making it work for consumers and stakeholders may hamper its rollout.
Meanwhile, both independent film makers and global studios have something to cheer.
Independents will be pleased to see that famous directors and star power (which cost a lot of money) are less influential than a decent trailer, strong storyline and positive word of mouth.
And the big studios will no doubt be happy to see that it’s their own advertising and promotional campaigns that have the biggest impact on purchase behaviour, so they can largely determine their own success without having to worry (too much) about overly critical reviews from professionals or aggregator sites.
That’s the kind of Hollywood ending everyone in the business will be happy to see.
If you’d like to dig deeper into these results, view the original data, or run your own survey thenbook a free consultation with our team today.