• Garrett Dozier

Despite the Rise of VOD, Survey Shows Theaters Still Have Support



Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe/Getty Images

With the COVID 19 pandemic in full swing and movie theaters shut down, studios have been experimenting with new ways to release their films given the unique circumstances. For many this has been the use of video on-demand (VOD), bypassing the theater experience to allow consumers to purchase a film immediately, with no strings attached. Beyond this, AMC and Universal have made a historic deal in which even after theaters reopen, their films will be available on VOD in a mere 17 days. All of these changes beg the question; are Americans moving on from movie theaters?

While in many ways it would appear that is the case, a new study from Performance Research indicates that there is still a core viewer base that wants to watch new movies on the big screen. However the results of the survey were not so clear-cut. While almost 30% of surveyed Americans stated they would prefer to watch new films in the theaters, another 45% stated they had no problem at all waiting as long as 90 days for a film to reach VOD, with the rest having no opinion on the matter. These results produce an interesting problem for filmmakers; do they accelerate the growth of VOD and shift out the theater model, or preserve the dedicated viewer base that still prefers the full experience?

The results become even more muddled with the next phase of the survey, which asked Americans for their preferences again, but this time pertaining to how they would wish to view specific movies. Demonstrating the power of the blockbuster, 70% of Americans stated that they would prefer to watch big-budget action flicks like Wonder Woman:1984 (2020) and Black Widow (2020) in the theaters. These numbers prove, while limited in scope, that there is still a huge demand for particular experiences in theaters.

The final phase of the survey asked questions about how theaters should operate going forward, proposing the expansion of operations with drive-ins. While closely imitating the theater experience, drive-ins fully cooperate with social distancing guidelines. While only 8% of Americans reported that they have already attended a drive-in movie since the pandemic began, 68% reported that they were anywhere from somewhat interested to very interested. Pairing these results with those indicating the desire for big budget theatrical releases, it appears that Americans still have a fondness for the in-person experience, even if it needs to adapt. VOD has risen tremendously in the past few months, and there’s no doubt that it will expand, but the numbers indicate that there is no reason to write off theaters.