Report asks ticket buyers what gets them into the theater

According to The NPD Group, a leading market research company, many of the most avid movie ticket buyers in the U.S. enjoy watching movies in the theater for social reasons that go beyond simple economic calculations. One-third of moviegoers head to the theaters four or more times in an average three-month period, and these consumers remain positive about spending their money on entertainment content, and on movie outings in particular.

NPD’s “Entertainment Trends in America” reports that nearly 80 percent of frequent moviegoers plan to go to the theater the same amount or more often than they did last year, despite news about a declining U.S. economy. Even among infrequent moviegoers (those who attend movies once or twice within three months) 57 percent plan to hold steady, or even increase, their attendance this year.

The top reason cited by consumers who intend to go to the movies more often this year is the social experience of going with family, friends, or significant others (73 percent). Nearly half (48 percent) pointed to the overall “movie-theater experience” (e.g., large screen, sound systems, etc.) as a primary reason they like to watch movies in the theater.

“Nothing is completely recession-proof, but movies are one of the ultimate social experiences,” said Russ Crupnick, entertainment industry analyst for The NPD Group. ”Despite the fact that more Americans now have high-tech entertainment equipment in our homes, nothing beats seeing ‘Dark Knight’ in a theater.”

Consumers who plan to go to the movies less often than they did last year, cited a dearth of good content, and unwillingness on their part to spend their time and money going out to the movies. “Although an uncertain economy plays a role in ticket-buying habits, consumers will also find other ways to entertain themselves, if there aren’t compelling movies to see; and that’s the case whether the economy is weak or flourishing,” Crupnick said.

According to NPD’s report, frequent moviegoers are 20 percent more likely than the average movie-ticket buyer to purchase DVDs of recent theatrical releases. They are also 60 percent more likely to rent a movie downloaded from the Web, and 40 percent more likely to purchase a movie as a digital download.

“Over time increases in the cost of movie tickets may move the social experience into the home,” Crupnick said. “That’s especially true as better home entertainment offerings led by HDTV, Blu-ray Disc, and simpler digital content downloading become more mainstream.”

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