The past year has seen some major changes in the way new movies are released. With movie theaters closed for much of 2020 and attendance still low once after reopening, production companies had to get a bit creative with how to release their blockbusters.
Some movies like the award-winning Nomadland went straight to streaming on Hulu. Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was up for bidding after it bypassed a theatrical window and ultimately landed at Apple+. Disney+ has been choosing to release some of its heavy hitters behind a premium tiered paywall so subscribers can stream it at an extra cost. Meanwhile, WarnerBros. opted for its films to hit HBO Max the same day as theaters. And still other films like the final Daniel Craig James Bond No Time to Die are still delaying the release to ensure the best theater turnout.
It’s hard to say which is the best option for a successful release. But new data from Parks Associates research shows that theaters are back as being the number one preferred option for watching new releases. The Q1 2021 consumer survey of 10,000 US broadband households reports 41% of US broadband households are now comfortable going back to movie theaters, including 50% or more of consumers aged 18-34.
The survey shows that the majority of consumers are neutral or unlikely to subscribe to another OTT video service just to watch a new release.
“In Q1 2021, US households are starting to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with that, they are starting to return to their original preferences to watch new movies in a theater, with other people,” said Steve Nason, Senior Analyst, Parks Associates. “The pandemic roiled traditional content windowing, and with some consumers ready to return to the theater, the studios will have to continue to experiment with hybrid release strategies.”