"Raya and the Last Dragon" "Raya and the Last Dragon"

In June, we polled our readers about when they would be likely to return to theaters. A total of 72.7% said they would wait at least three months, and an additional 6% said they would never go back.

Half a year on, the mood doesn’t seem to have changed. Deloitte polled U.S. consumers on the subject as part of its Digital Media Trends 14th edition fall pulse survey, and its findings aren’t very different from our informal polling. Here are the key points from the survey:

  • Few Americans have been to a theater in the Covid era. The survey found that only 18% of consumers have visited one since the pandemic began.
  • And most don’t want to visit one anytime soon. In all, 71% of respondents said they wouldn’t be comfortable doing so in the next month even if they could; just over half said the same about the next six months.
  • Even after the pandemic, new U.S. releases could find a bigger audience at home than in cinemas. While 35% of respondents said their preference would definitely or probably be to see new movies in the theater, 44% said the same about home viewing.
  • Streaming subscribers want lower costs and exclusive content. Of all the reasons why they would stay subscribed, the most commonly cited were: being able to switch to a cheaper, ad-supported version of the service (28%) and receiving exclusive movie or tv content (27%).

The survey involved 1,100 U.S. consumers, and was conducted in October 2020 by the Deloitte Center for Technology, Media & Telecommunications — before Warnermedia’s stunning announcement that it would send Warner Bros.’s entire 2021 slate of features simultaneously to theaters and streaming platform HBO Max in the U.S. (and possibly elsewhere).

The financial implications of this unprecedented move are being hotly debated. Analyst Craig Moffett estimates that it will lead to a loss of $1.2 billion in annual revenue for Warnermedia.

But Kevin Westcott, vice chairman of Deloitte and leader of its U.S. Technology, Media & Telecommunications practice, points out that the choice between streaming and cinemas is, for studios, more than a simple matter of annual revenue. “The other thing direct-to-consumer gives [studios] that they never had before,” he tells Variety, “is really rich data. It’s info they couldn’t get even with people with clipboards outside theaters.”

It remains to be seen whether other majors follow Warnermedia’s lead and shatter the theatrical window for all their releases. It’s certainly likely that more animated tentpoles currently slated for a theatrical release in 2021 will move to streaming in some form.

Image at top: Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” is currently slated for theatrical release next March, but whether that happens remains to be seen.

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Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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