June 18, 2005

Survey says people prefer movies at home

A recent AP-AOL poll about movies has turned up a number of interesting things, such as a general preference people have for watching movies at home.

To start, I'd be interested in knowing when this poll was taken. What sort of answers do you get when you ask these questions in the early part of the year as opposed to the end of the year when the industry is releasing its "better" films as studios grab at Academy Awards?

Still, there are some interesting results. Like three quarters of those polled saying they prefer watching movies at home.

"Young adults, single people and those with college degrees were most likely to say they preferred going to the movie theater."

That's not surprising. Older people, particularly those with families, save money on ticket prices, snacks and baby-sitting by simply renting or buying a DVD.

Home theatres are bigger and better now too so, while the theatre still has that big screen, it doesn't feel like such great advantage unless you're a genuine cinema aficionado. Besides, depending on what theatre you see a film in, the big screen may not be all that hot. I’ve been in theatres where the movie didn’t appear bright enough, wasn’t quite fitted to the screen and didn’t sound all that great.

An advantage home viewing has over the theatre is control. I’ve actually been in theatres watching a movie and tried to press the pause or back button then realized, “Hey, wait! I have no remote!”

Another interesting tidbit from the poll was this:

“People were most fond of comedies, followed by dramas and action-adventure movies.”

Again … when were the questions asked? If Hollywood has a glut of action-adventure movies, there is a good chance people will say they want comedies simply because the action-adventure films have worn out their welcome.

My own take on all of this is that, like all polls, the results can be read numerous ways. But I do think you can safely conclude people are generally finding the convenience and control of home viewing has greater appeal than the traditional appeal of theatres, the spectacle of the big screen. It’s not that home viewing is a better way to see a movie, it’s simply that its advantages are increasing whereas the advantage of the theatre is roughly static. Or, if not static, the additional attractions added to the theatre experience are not of the same kind as home viewing, convenience and control.

And the movie business continues to be run by business people who believe hoo-hah, the usual snake-oil flash, is a safer bet than a good story. I have a bias, true, but I think a good story beats flash almost every time. It certainly does where longevity is concerned. Flash may take the opening weekend, but a good story often means doing well over several weekends and in DVD sales and rentals.

Does this mean more money? Maybe not. Maybe that one big opening weekend is where all the money is to be made. But I think it's also safe to conclude that a movie designed for a big opening weekend take doesn't have "legs." My impression is that they are largely forgettable.

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