The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the growth of video-on-demand streaming platforms like Disney+ and Netflix, while halting the growth of movie theaters and cinemas, which were shut down for months while platforms like Netflix were busy adding more subscribers. Equally, the new customer journey of a moviegoer has changed significantly with the implementation of restrictive social distancing and sanitization protocols.
Overview of Moviegoers during COVID-19
- Presently, moviegoers are not returning to cinemas in droves, with only 22% of moviegoers feeling comfortable returning to theaters, according to a weekly survey conducted by Morning Consult, a global data intelligence firm.
- Likewise, a recent movie theater reopening survey by EDO dubbed “Movie Theaters and Social Distancing,” the majority of movie goers (75%) were highly likely to return to theaters upon their opening and implementing certain safety measures.
- The avid movie goers are accommodating changes to showtimes as part of the safety measures they want implemented. According to the survey, 86% of the respondents are in “favor of limited showtimes to allow for extended cleaning times between screenings.”
- On that note, moviegoers are likely less interested in show times as much as they are interested in safety measures; hence, they do not object spreading out showtimes to allow more time for proper sanitization of the venues and minimize traffic in common areas.
- Overall, the staggered showtimes coupled with reduced capacities will help maximize physical distancing, which is a key COVID-19 safety measure implemented across cinemas.
Signals That Could Indicate Interest in Visiting Cinemas
- To a larger extent, political alignment plays a role in arousing interest in going back to cinemas. The unprecedented politicization of mask-wearing has been heightened by businesses increasingly demanding this public health measure for the safety of everyone, a view that ignites political controversy.
- COVID-19 safety protocols underscore the majority of movie goers’ interests to head back to cinemas. 91% of the EDO survey respondents would want theaters to have hand-sanitizer stations throughout the building, 77% want cinema employees to wear facemasks, and about 70% want employees’ temperature checked before work.
- The survey also revealed that 60% of moviegoers would prefer having their temperatures checked when they return, about 70% want movie goers to wear facemasks, and only 5% believe no COVID-19 safety measures should be implemented. Other measures include wearing gloves by both the staff and audience.
- The ability to reserve seats turned out to spark interest in about 80% of the respondents who said that the “ability to RSVP seats was a positive factor contributing to their decision to head back to the cinema.”
- Other interests that could attract more attendance in cinemas include fresh content. Currently, the lack of fresh film content and studio hesitancy to release films have resulted in audience hesitancy to return to theaters. Experts assert that it is hard to justify a new film release with audiences at 20% capacity, thus the idea to postpone new films release to 2021.
Consumers’ Use of Entertainment on-Demand OR Subscription Services
- Since the onset of the pandemic, the journey for moviegoers has changed drastically, especially with the availability of numerous sources of entertainment. However, in comparison, subscription services seem to outperform entertainment on-demand options.
- The average subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services per household are up by about 10%. As of June 2020, the penetration rates for Netflix and Disney+ were 65% and 29%, respectively, indicating that more consumers are opting for subscription-based video-on-demand services.
- A July 2020 report on subscription video providers revealed that of the pandemic’s total new over the top (OTT) subscriptions, Netflix accounts for 24% of the market, Amazon 16%, Disney+ 15%, and Hulu 14%.
- On the other hand, niche VOD services have seen modest growth despite no single platform gaining over 5% of the total share. In this regard, many Americans are still relying on two to three OTT services and are yet to explore the many SVOD offerings in the market.
- The growth in the trend is likely to continue with total users piggybacking onto another’s membership almost doubling to 26%. Equally, over half (56%) of piggybackers claim they are willing to pay for at least one streaming service, an increase of 10 percentage points compared to 2019.
Growth of Streaming Content in the Home vs. Leaving the Home for Entertainment
- Streaming content in the home has performed well during the pandemic lockdown compared to leaving the home for entertainment, a path affected by many COVID-19 restrictions and the risk for exposure while out there.
- During Q1 of 2020, Netflix said its user base grew by 15 million new subscribers bringing its total number of global subscribers to 183 million. In comparison, the majority of theaters remained closed since the onset of the pandemic.
- The prevalent sentiment across the cinema and theater market is that of delayed or postponed releases. Most of the big names in the industry like Hollywood have pushed the release of their major films to late 2020 or next year.
- The theater market attracts strict restrictions due to the crowding; hence, most of these venues will likely remain underutilized, considering the current restrictions including limited showtimes and increased sanitization efforts all the time.
- Overall, leaving the home for entertainment option faces a lot of restrictions, primarily those relating to social distancing. On this note, big cinemas that recently opened are only allowing limited audiences and playing limited show times; however, SVOD platforms like Netflix that have not faced many restrictions have been adding new subscribers, an indicator that the business is booming.