Will cinemas survive COVID-19?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
May 14, 2020, 11:20 AM GMT+0

Could COVID-19 be the death of the cinema? YouGov data suggests otherwise

With cinema doors closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, film makers were faced with a choice: delay their premiers until the pandemic subsides, as the team behind the latest 007 movie have, or do the unthinkable and go straight to on-demand streaming.

Well, that’s exactly what Universal did when they opted to release their animated movie Trolls 2 directly to on-demand, and bypass the silver screen. Now Warner Brothers are following suit by releasing the latest Scooby Doo film for streaming, rather than waiting for the cinemas to reopen.

Could this spell the end for the cinema? Trolls 2 made $95m in its first three weeks of streaming, but a sizeable chunk of British film fans are still loyal to the big screen.

Before lockdown began YouGov asked the public if, given the choice, they would rather watch a new film they wanted to see in a cinema, or wait for it to become available on streaming services or on disc. Two in five (41%) of those who say they watch films very or fairly frequently say they are most likely to wait for a film to become available on a streaming service.

However, the cinema is by no means without its dedicated fans, with a third (36%) of film buffs saying they would prefer to watch it on the big screen.

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A sixth (17%) of film fans wait until films are released on disc to see them. While film fans aged 18 to 24 years old are split between preferring the cinema (47%) and using streaming services (48%), they are twice as likely as their elders to use services like Netflix to watch films. Only 25% of film fans over 65 opting for the streaming services instead of going to the cinema (30%).

Another 30% of film fans over 65 say they prefer buying DVDs and Blu-rays, compared to just 1% of fans aged between 18 and 24.

Why do Britons love to stream movies at home?

For those who prefer to use streaming services to watch films, the primary reasons are the lower cost of streaming (53%) and the flexibility of being able to watch the films whenever you want (52%).

For two in five (40%) of film fans, they prefer the viewing experience at home, rather than the cinema.

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While men and women mostly agree on why they prefer streaming films, men (35%) are slightly more likely to be swayed by the larger choice of films available on streaming services than women (23%).

Three in ten (30%) film fans say they enjoy watching films at home with others, which may well be responsible for the rise in “Netflix parties” where people stream the same movies together at the same time.

What do Brits love about the cinema?

While cinemas maybe closed for the meantime due to the coronavirus outbreak, many film fans will be keen to return, as for most cinema fans it’s all about the big-screen experience.

Two thirds (67%) said they prefer the viewing experience in the cinema, and 55% said they enjoy going to the cinema as a social outing – just shy of double the number of fans who prefer streaming who said they liked watching films with others at home (30%).

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For two in five film fans (40%) who prefer the cinema, it’s about seeing the film as soon as possible, a factor that is also more important for men (47%) than for women (34%).

Another fifth (21%) said they just want to pay for the films they want to watch, not a wider streaming service, however 4% say they have a subscription or membership to the cinema.

For film fans who prefer buying DVD’s and Blu-rays to the cinema or streaming, the most popular reason is the ability to see the film whenever they wanted (56%) followed by preference for the viewing experience at home (53%).

See full results here

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