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Who's Up For A Movie?

May 12, 2023
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Movie theaters have always provided a source of escape for the audience. As the story unravels on the big screen, the audience shuts out the world for a couple of hours. 2/3 of the U.S. population watches movies in the theater. That’s 238 million people* who will focus and invest in a movie, unless of course a dreaded cell phone sounds off in the middle of the movie and distracts your concentration.

Movie theaters were just rolling along, with no real challenges to their predictably steady captive audiences, until Covid wreaked havoc and triggered massive shutdowns. Media plans were halted, and major theater chains were suddenly faced with trying to figure out how to work around a real-life plot twist. Government shutdowns closed theaters entirely and empty seats eventually had AMC hanging on by a thread. Cineworld (the parent company of Regal) eventually filed for bankruptcy, closing nearly 40 theaters in an attempt to get back on track. Movie production houses began popping up from the already-popular streaming services to offer original movie content from the comfort of home. Though, some lacked solid production quality and fresh content. Even once gathering regulations were loosened, safety-concerns around the need for social distancing led to fewer movie goers in the months and years following early 2020. In response, the typical “windowing” period was shortened, meaning that movies playing in theaters became available for home-streaming more quickly than usual. It has been a forced evolution that some thought would end theaters as we know them.

Fast forward to April 2023, and movie attendance is on the rise again. Major franchises are making sequels to their previous films, and fans are showing up to see them on the big screen. Sequels came in strong for John Wick, Scream, and Mario Bros. and production studios are willing to make significant investments in their movie casts. Across horror, suspense, comedy, and drama, so far in 2023 theater movie releases are closest to pre-pandemic levels or that of 2019. It’s a critical moment for the movie industry and theaters.

Movie theaters are taking this resurgence as an opportunity, they’re not just settling for a rebound. They’re taking steps to elevate the moviegoer’s experience with upgraded seating, screens, digital projection, and sound equipment. Some are including restaurant-style food options and adding alcohol to their drink menus. Others are evolving into something completely different, adding additional entertainment options beyond movies like bowling alleys, axe throwing, ropes courses, escape rooms, and laser tag. Theater owners are taking steps to increase their longevity and long-term profitability.

As we finally begin to see the light on the other side of the pandemic, forecasts show positive projections on the 2023 horizon for movie theaters. 20% more blockbuster titles. A projected 900 million tickets to be sold. A 10 million monthly unique reach of adults aged between 18 and 49. Screenvision estimates 75% of admissions will be adults between 18 and 34 and 71% of admissions will be adults between 18 and 49 years old. That’s between 435 million and 635 million people in the U.S. supporting ticket sales this year. It's a solid promise for cinema advertisers again. If it’s been a while since you’ve ordered a bag of popcorn and munched on your favorite movie theater candy, consider taking a couple of hours for a beautiful, new plot twist in an exciting movie this year.

*Data per Screenvision update 4/23

Vickie Brooks