Most People Rarely—Or Never—Go to the Movies Nowadays

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If you still go to the movies fairly regularly, you’re in the minority, according to a new survey.

On the behalf of CouponCabin, Harris Interactive conducted a poll gauging consumer interest in hitting the movie theater. For the most part, interest is fading.

Slightly more than 6 in 10 (61%) of adults said that they rarely or never go out to the movies. What’s more, of those who do go to the movies, more than half (55%) said that they go see films less often now than they did before the recession. Here’s one possible explanation for why there’s so much elbow room in movie theaters of late:

“Entertainment spending, like going to the movies, is often one of the first things to go when consumers try to cut back,” said Jackie Warrick, President and Chief Savings Officer at CouponCabin.com.

Well, actually, no. That’s not really the case. During the onset of the recession, there was actually a record-setting uptick in movie tickets sold, especially for silly, take-your-mind-off-things films like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” The theory is that, when the economy turns south, there’s a rise in affordable splurges like romance novels and donuts because people want to treat themselves in minor, inexpensive ways.

(MORE: The Great Film Performances of 2012)

The National Association of Theatre Owners notes that “movie theaters do especially well during economic downturns,” and that during six of the past eight recessions in the U.S., box office and admissions sales increased. So theaters can’t use “the economy’s bad” as an excuse for lame sales.

Movie theaters fared quite poorly during the economically shaky year of 2011. Last year saw the fewest movie tickets sold since 1995, with overall revenues dropping by 4.5% compared to 2010—despite the fact that theaters were receiving the highest-ever amount per moviegoer. For a spell recently, the average ticket sold crossed the $8 threshold for the first time ever, thanks partly to the spread of pricier 3-D films. Overall, reported the Los Angeles Times and others, the average ticket price for 2011 was $7.93, up from $7.89 in 2010.

During tough economic times, consumers will always seek out affordable splurges. It just seems like, for many people, going to the movies no longer seems all that affordable, nor particularly worth the money. A family of four can easily expect to pay $75 or more for treats at the theater and admissions to an 85-minute movie—that you’ll surely be able to buy for less than $10 a few months down the line.

(MORE: The Cure for the Ailing Movie Business Is to … Raise Ticket Prices?)

Perhaps, then, people are staying away from movie theaters not because the economy’s bad, but because movies cost too damn much. And because the movies being shown aren’t particularly good. And because paying an extra $5 for a mediocre film in 3-D is a rip-off. And because most households are already paying around $100 a month for cable and movie channels at home, as well as another $9 or more for Netflix or some other service. And because a DVD rental at Redbox costs just a bit over $1. And … well, you get the picture.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

1 comments
TonyHogg
TonyHogg

How can 3d be the problem if most cities show a 3d movie in 2d as well.  Wouldn't they just go buy a ticket to the 2d showing.  Hmmmm.