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New Polling Shows Theater Owners Should Be Scared

Because moviegoers? They're scared to go to the movies.
September 12, 2020
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'Tenet' is about the Lollipop Guild's efforts to travel back in time and recruit Dorothy.

When looking at the box office results for Tenet, here’s the only question that really matters: are numbers depressed because capacity is down or are numbers depressed because people are fearful and avoiding movie theaters?

There are stated preferences and revealed preferences. What are the stated preferences? Well, in a gif:

The stated preferences are much, much worse than the best-case revealed preferences, which I’ll get to in a moment. The stated preferences should scare movie-theater owners, movie distributors, and anyone interested in the future of exhibition. The stated preferences are, potentially, an extinction-level event.

According to new data from The Harris Poll drawn from a survey conducted September 3-5, 70 percent of polled American adults think that movie theaters are “more dangerous than other types of public gatherings.” Seventy-one percent said they would not feel safe in a movie theater right now.

Two-thirds of those polled said that social distancing and limiting auditorium capacity were key, and nearly half, 47 percent, said capacity should be below 25 percent in any given theater. Perhaps primed to realize that they’re talking about an extinction-level event, 58 percent of respondents said they’re worried about theaters not surviving the pandemic and 57 percent said they’ll miss theaters when they’re gone.

OK, so. That’s the bad news. The box office data offers us some limited insight into revealed preferences and it’s . . . slightly better, I guess?