May 16, 2006

Increasingly, Americans Prefer Going to the Movies at Home

Watching Movie

The start of the summer blockbuster movie season has Hollywood hoping for the usual stampede to the theaters, but now more than ever, the place that most Americans would rather watch movies is under their own roof.

FigureThree-quarters of all adults say they would prefer watching movies at home rather than in a theater, according to a Pew Research Center survey, up from 67% in 1994.

The survey finds that more than seven-in-ten adults (71%) watch at least one movie a week, but the great bulk of this viewing occurs at home rather than in a theater.

While the most popular way to watch movies at home is on broadcast, cable or satellite television programming, fully half of the public says that at least once a week they a watch a movie on a DVD or by pay-per-view.

Viewing movies at home in this manner – which, like theater-going, requires consumers to pay for each movie they see – is roughly five times more prevalent than going out to the movies in a theater, the Pew survey finds.

This heightened preference for home movie viewing tracks a rapid expansion over the past decade in a variety of home movie viewing services and options. Beyond the familiar staple of movies on broadcast, cable, satellite or pay-per-view television, there are now faster turnaround times for first-release movie DVDs, as well as mail services (such as Netflix) and recording devices (such as TiVo) that make home movie viewing more convenient. Also, the burgeoning sales of large-screen, high-resolution television sets have created a home-theater setting in a growing number of American living rooms and dens.

As more people say they prefer to watch movies at home, fewer are going out to theaters. Since 1995, when Pew last asked these questions, there has been a small overall decline in the percentage of adults who report that they go to theaters at least monthly. This decline, while modest among the full adult population, has been more substantial among those segments of the public most coveted by the theater industry – younger, better educated, and higher-income consumers.

Are home viewing devices and services eating into the theater-going audience? The Pew findings on this question are mixed. Among people who rarely or never go to the theater, “the ease of waiting for the DVD” is the most oft-cited reason in our survey for not going to the theater more often. But our survey finds that people with more home movie viewing devices and services are also the ones most likely to watch a lot of movies – both in the theater as well as at home. Movie buffs, in short, tend to watch a lot of movies, no matter what the venue.

These findings come from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted by telephone with a nationally representative, randomly selected sample of 2,250 adults from February 8 through March 7, 2006.

Read the full report for more details.