Movie Theaters Can Attract More Customers With Vaccine Mandates, Lower Ticket Prices, Study Finds

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Movie theaters may need to offer cheaper tickets and institute vaccine mandates if they want to attract former customers who stopped visiting multiplexes during COVID-19, a new study finds.

The report, which was commissioned by Quorum, a film research company, Cultique, a brand consulting firm; and Fanthropology, a research and strategy agency, surveyed more than 2,500 pre-pandemic moviegoers. It discovered that nearly half of respondents, some 49% of those polled, once went to cinemas, but no longer do so. Their reluctance mostly comes down to concerns about safety and price, the study’s authors claim.

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“The clock is ticking,” the report reads. “The longer exhibition takes to address these issues, the more likely it is that non-theater-going behavior will be set.”

Among former filmgoers, 59% said they don’t feel safe in theaters. Some 33% of those surveyed said requiring customers to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination would make them more comfortable about seeing a movie in theaters. Another 30% said they were “fine” with showing they had been vaccinated. But not everyone agrees. Some 20% of respondents view vaccine requirements as an “infringement.”

The report comes after the movie business saw ticket sales for the week of Thanksgiving tumble by nearly $100 million from pre-pandemic levels. Even films like “No Time to Die” and “Black Widow” that have topped the box office are struggling to turn a profit given depressed attendance. There’s room for some optimism that this lost revenue can be regained. Though the study says that 16% of people who haven’t returned to theaters in the COVID era don’t see themselves doing so in the future, another 58% are hopeful they can return. Former filmgoers skew female, the study says.

There’s also some sticker shock at play in the loss of customers. Some 70% of avid moviegoers, defined as people who have seen multiple movies in theaters during the pandemic, and 66% of infrequent moviegoers, respondents who have seen a movie or two during the pandemic, also indicated they would go more often if moviegoing was less expensive. Respondents, said that they wanted improved concessions, including cocktails and healthier food choices, with 65% complaining that buying snacks at cinemas is too expensive.

Since Moviepass ushered in low-cost subscription passes, theater chains have bolstered loyalty programs and subscription services of their own. But their sales pitch isn’t working. Nearly half of respondents said they were not familiar with the programs or thought they were complicated to use.

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