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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Movie Theaters Outlook US market including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

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Movie theaters have faced an uphill battle for the last decade, but COVID-19 has gutted the market by simultaneously scaring people away from public venues and making home entertainment options more attractive, even after theaters reopened their doors. Movie theaters’ position as the standard form of film distribution has been usurped by streaming services and digital rentals than have taken on more prominence. However, theaters will survive though will become more of a special occasion than a regular routine by appealing to avid movie fans even as the casual moviegoers find value elsewhere.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by John Poelking, a leading analyst in the Leisure sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Movie theaters won’t go away entirely but they have been dealt a crushing blow in 2020. Even as theaters open back up, fear of contracting COVID-19 has kept consumers focused on social distancing and home entertainment. While dedicated moviegoers will continue to find value in the movie theater experience, casual moviegoers will likely consider going to a movie theater as a special even
John Poelking
Leisure Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • Definition
          • COVID-19: market context
            • Economic and other assumptions
            • Executive Summary

                • Top takeaways
                  • Market overview
                    • Figure 1: Total US revenue from box office admissions, at current prices, 2015-21
                  • Impact of COVID-19 on movie theaters
                    • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on movie theaters, November 2020
                  • Opportunities and challenges
                    • The need for theaters has been reset
                      • Figure 3: Changing movie viewing habits, September 2020
                    • Overcome safety concerns by emphasizing sanitation protocols
                      • Figure 4: What will make people comfortable going to movie theaters, September 2020
                    • Emphasize the joys of the moviegoing experience through drive-ins, independent theaters
                      • Figure 5: Attitudes toward drive-ins and independent movie theaters, September 2020
                    • Movie theaters face mounting competition from home entertainment
                      • Figure 6: Recency of movie rentals and streaming services, September 2020
                    • Fit the distribution strategy to the movie
                      • Figure 7: Movie genres to see in theaters, September 2020
                    • What’s next
                    • The Market – Key Takeaways

                      • Movie theater revenue may never fully recover
                        • Movie theaters’ value hurt by uncertainty and competition
                          • Changing movie landscape can provide opportunities
                          • Market Size and Forecast

                            • A devastating year that could be impossible to fully recover from
                              • Figure 8: Total US revenue from box office admissions, at current prices, 2015-21
                              • Figure 9: Key drivers affecting Mintel’s market forecast, 2019-25 (prepared in October 2020)
                            • Impact of COVID-19 on movie theaters
                              • Figure 10: Short-, medium- and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on movie theaters, November 2020
                            • Lockdown
                              • Re-emergence
                                • Recovery
                                  • COVID-19: US context
                                    • Learnings from the last recession
                                      • Movies remained a great escape through turbulent times
                                        • Figure 11: Box office and concession revenue, at current prices, 2006-11
                                      • Prior economic downturn shows that people stay close to home but also look to treat themselves
                                        • Figure 12: Consumer spending on leisure and entertainment, by market segments, at current prices, 2000-25
                                    • Market Factors

                                      • Worry of contracting virus remains high
                                        • Figure 13: US consumers’ concern for contracting COVID-19, March-September 2020
                                      • Going to the movies is more anticipated than some other leisure activities
                                        • Figure 14: US consumers’ consideration of future activities, June 25-July 7, 2020
                                      • A timeline of a tumultuous year at the movies
                                        • March 2020: movie theaters close
                                          • Late spring/early summer: drive-ins and outdoor screenings pop up
                                            • Mid/late summer: pilot programs at theaters with older movies
                                              • August and September 2020: new movies come back to mixed results
                                                • The rest of 2020: delays and hesitation from major studios
                                                  • Rising ticket prices don’t match value consumers put on movie theaters
                                                    • Figure 15: Average movie ticket price, 2010-19
                                                  • Premium rentals challenge movie theaters
                                                    • COVID-19 shutdowns could slow more movie productions
                                                      • Streaming services have caught up to pay TV
                                                        • Figure 16: Video entertainment services used, May 2020
                                                      • TV shows have become stiffer competition
                                                        • Figure 17: TV shows vs movies, September 2020
                                                    • Market Opportunities

                                                      • Emphasize nostalgia to regain interest of older moviegoers
                                                        • Experiment with different distribution strategies
                                                          • Independent theaters can be positioned to reach cinephiles
                                                            • Course correct upward trend of ticket prices to emphasize value
                                                            • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                                              • Three theater chains face an uphill battle
                                                                • Theaters find ways to engage cinephiles in spite of COVID-19
                                                                • Market Performance: Movie Theater Chains

                                                                  • Three chains dominated US market before COVID-19
                                                                    • Figure 18: Theater chain visited most frequently, by share of moviegoers, September 2019
                                                                  • AMC
                                                                    • Regal
                                                                      • Cinemark
                                                                      • Competitive Strategies

                                                                        • Emphasizing specific safety protocols above all else
                                                                          • Figure 19: @amctheatres Safe and Clean Instagram post, September 2020
                                                                        • Rent out the whole theater
                                                                          • Theater chains and distributors work together for hybrid home and theater model
                                                                            • Focus on local appeal of movie theaters
                                                                              • Figure 20: @malcotheatres1915 Save Your Cinema Instagram post, July 2020
                                                                            • Finding ways to support theaters outside of physical visits
                                                                              • Figure 21: @musicboxchicago concessions Instagram post, April 2020
                                                                          • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                                                            • Consumers driven by experiences and value
                                                                              • Moviegoing changed drastically in 2020
                                                                                • 2021 will be an important signal for the future of movies
                                                                                  • Safety concerns keep people away
                                                                                    • Streaming is the new standard
                                                                                      • Digital rentals favor convenience over exclusivity
                                                                                        • Comedies, action movies can bring people back
                                                                                        • Trend Drivers and their Impact on Movie Theaters

                                                                                            • Figure 22: Mintel Trend Drivers and Pillars
                                                                                          • Technology
                                                                                            • Surroundings
                                                                                              • Value
                                                                                                • Experiences
                                                                                                • Seeing Movies in 2020

                                                                                                  • Alternate movie venues couldn’t make up for theaters’ absence in 2020
                                                                                                    • Figure 23: Out-of-home movie attendance in 2020, September 2020
                                                                                                  • COVID-19 shifted how people will watch movies
                                                                                                    • Figure 24: Changing movie habits in 2020, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Major chains can bring more people back
                                                                                                    • Figure 25: Visiting movie chains vs independent theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Drive-ins, independent theaters can invigorate cinephiles
                                                                                                    • Figure 26: Attitudes toward drive-ins and independent movie theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                • The Impact of COVID-19 on Theaters Beyond 2020

                                                                                                  • Theaters need to prove their worth to bring people back
                                                                                                    • Figure 27: The need to see movies in theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Tradition and nostalgia can be a powerful force
                                                                                                    • Figure 28: Attitudes toward movie theaters’ place in culture, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Hesitation could be quelled by 2021 releases
                                                                                                    • Figure 29: Attitudes toward movies in 2021, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Put the movies and artists front and center
                                                                                                    • Figure 30: Attitudes toward movies and creators, September 2020
                                                                                                • What Will Bring People Back to Theaters

                                                                                                  • Safety means the most to hesitant movie viewers
                                                                                                    • Figure 31: What will make people comfortable going to movie theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Vaccine will calm fears, but not for everybody
                                                                                                    • Figure 32: Hesitance to returning to movie theaters, all adults vs movie viewers and out-of-home moviegoers, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Concerns over health and value make movie theaters a difficult proposition
                                                                                                    • Figure 33: Factors contributing to movie theater hesitancy, September 2020
                                                                                                • Competing with Home Entertainment: Streaming

                                                                                                  • Streaming became standard in lockdown
                                                                                                    • Figure 34: Recency of movie viewing on streaming service, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Large content libraries made for wise investments
                                                                                                    • Figure 35: Home movie investments during COVID-19, September 2020
                                                                                                  • People can wait for better home entertainment viewing experiences
                                                                                                    • Figure 36: Home viewing behaviors and preferences, September 2020
                                                                                                  • The quality of movies keeps theaters relevant
                                                                                                    • Figure 37: Attitudes toward movie quality in theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                • Competing with Home Entertainment: Rentals

                                                                                                  • Digital rentals prove value during lockdown
                                                                                                    • Figure 38: Recency of movie rentals and purchases, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Amazon dominated rental market
                                                                                                    • Figure 39: Services used to digitally rent or buy movies, September 2020
                                                                                                  • Premium rentals will not be a new standard
                                                                                                    • Figure 40: Attitudes toward movie rentals, September 2020
                                                                                                • Movie Genres to See in Theaters

                                                                                                  • Genre preferences highlight opportunities for distribution differentiation
                                                                                                    • Comedy, action still have a place in theaters
                                                                                                      • Independent movies will live at home
                                                                                                        • Figure 41: Movie genres to see in theaters, September 2020
                                                                                                      • Gearing genres toward age, gender show what will work in theaters
                                                                                                        • Men like things that blow up, women like quieter movies
                                                                                                          • Figure 42: Movie genres to see in theaters, by gender, September 2020
                                                                                                        • Young moviegoers want excitement on the screen
                                                                                                          • Figure 43: Movie genres to see in theaters, by age, September 2020
                                                                                                      • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                                                        • Data sources
                                                                                                          • Sales data
                                                                                                            • Consumer survey data
                                                                                                              • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                                                • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                  • Terms

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