The Gist: Black Panther created significant intrigue for moviegoers of all stripes, proving that, even in the age of on-demand streaming services, the right film can inspire consumers to break their habits.

On February 16, 2018, the film Black Panther opened in American movie theaters. Based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, the film quickly distinguished itself with its cultural significance and stunning opening weekend success. Simply put, this is one movie that generated a lot of buzz, not just in the world of film, but in the world at large.

Curious as to how the public was interacting with this particular film and how engagement compared to typical behavior, we dove in to find out more.

Of those US adults who saw the film on opening weekend, 43% report going to the theater less than once a month. This trend continued across the board, with 55% of US adults who saw the film in theaters not on opening weekend and 50% of US adults who planned on seeing it in theaters (but hadn’t yet) also falling into this infrequent theater-attending category.

With the rise of streaming services and on-demand everything, this is of special importance. Clearly, for the right film, even the less-frequent moviegoers will come out of hiding. And, it seems, Black Panther may be that film.

In order to better understand moviegoers and their habits–especially in relation to this particular situation–we took a step back to see if the effort of actually making it to a physical theater may have prevented some film buffs from seeing Black Panther.

Although 47% report not having seen the movie and having no plans of doing so, 27% admitted that they were waiting to watch it at home, offering a potential confirmation of the fact that for some, going out to a theater is no longer a high priority and may, in fact, be a major deterrent to seeing a film.

So who did make it off of the couch to see the film in theaters?  We took a look at the genre preferences of our responders to find out more and saw an interesting dynamic between those who favor action films and those who favor comedy.

On opening weekend, 40% of US adults who saw the film in theaters actually defined their favorite movie genre as comedy. This is interesting, considering the film’s action-packed, sci-fi/fantasy designation. Were moviegoers simply looking to take in a hot, new film? Were there misconceptions about what to expect? There is no way of knowing for sure, but the data does suggest that the excitement of opening weekend may draw in a much wider audience than we may have assumed.

After opening weekend, US adults who rated their favorite movie genre as action became the majority, making up 37% of responders. As for those who have not yet seen the film in theaters, but who plan to do so, 29% favor comedy. Is there a rhyme or reason to this? While it is clear why action lovers would gravitate towards a film based on a popular comic book, it is less clear why comedy lovers would do so. And yet, as we can see, something must have motivated them to become a part of the contingent of US adults who sought to find out what the Black Panther buzz was all about.

From this data, we can begin to form brief but resonant insights into the habits of modern-day film fans. While there may be a trend away from getting out of the house to see a film, the real intrigue lies in the reality of who is making an effort to get to the movies, and which films inspire individuals to break their typical moviegoing habits.  

Ultimately, filmmakers and their marketing teams would be wise to focus their advertising on a wider range of movie fans, instead of zeroing in on their anticipated target audience. As we can see, a movie with the right hype can encourage people to step out of their normal movie viewing tendencies. After all, could anyone have guessed that comedy lovers would be flocking to see Black Panther in theaters on opening weekend? Probably not. And in an age when staying in is the new going out, the movie industry should take note. As it turns out, sometimes the greatest fans can come from the most unexpected places.