There have been huge amounts of progress and movement in the media and entertainment industry over the past few years, accelerated even further by the recent pandemic. With people confined to their homes for months at a time, home entertainment sources such as social media and streaming platforms have never been more popular. 

The other side of this, of course, is the fact that most theaters were simply not accessible to the public for a large part of 2020.  Now that they are open, are Americans even interested in returning to the big screens? In an attempt to answer this question, CivicScience asked more than 60,000 U.S. adults when they would be comfortable going to a movie theater and the majority (54%) reported that they would be willing to return in the next 3 weeks. While this statistic may be optimistic for the movie theatre industry, more than a third (36%) of those asked reported that they would only be comfortable returning much later this year.

But while the willingness to return to the big screens may still be there, the pandemic has, at least to some extent, forever changed the way Americans prefer to consume movies. Data collected by CivicScience shows that the large majority of U.S. adults (71%) prefer to watch something at home over going out to watch a movie. Less than one-fourth (23%) prefer the opposite. 

Age, it seems, plays an important role in this preference. In general, the older a person is, the more likely they are to prefer watching at home to going out. In fact, Americans over the age of 65 are 22% more likely to prefer watching at home over going out to see a movie than those under the age of 25.

With the holiday season around the corner, Christmas movies and new releases are going to be rapidly increasing in the next few months. And while the large majority of Americans prefer watching at home to going out to a movie, the statistics on new movie releases seem to be more evenly spread. Just over half (56%) of U.S. adults would still prefer streaming at home, although 44% reported that they would prefer to see the new releases in theaters.

The interest in purchasing or renting newly released movies (that were originally intended to be released in theaters) to stream in the past few weeks has been relatively low. Only 13% of those asked reported having purchased or rented a new movie to stream, while more than two-thirds (69%) reported not having done so and having no interest in doing so in the future.

Considering the large proportion of Americans that prefer watching movies at home, could there be an opportunity for production companies to team up with streaming services to capitalize on this preference? As of this writing, most U.S. adults are not willing to pay more than $10 extra to stream a new release on a platform that they already pay for. 

And the older a person is, the worse these statistics get. Only 19% of Americans aged 55 or older are willing to pay more than $10 for this additional service. This is significantly less than the 67% of those aged 24 or younger who are willing to pay the same.

It seems that Americans are still interested in going to movie theaters, especially for new releases, and so the demand for the big screens this holiday is not likely to disappear, although it may be slightly below that of pre-pandemic times.