A new study published by analytics corp EDO (via Deadline), titled “Social Distancing Moviegoing and TV Habits,” is sure to give theater exhibitors hope that things will largely return to normal for cinemas after this whole COVID-19 pandemic is in our past. The new survey paints a picture that shows a large majority of people happily returning to theaters once they reopen, whenever that might be. However, there’s a bit of bad news, as well.
According to the EDO study, 70% of people surveyed said they were likely to return to cinemas once they reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course. And better yet, 45% say that they’re “very likely” to return. That means, in a macro sense, that theaters are going to survive the existential threat that this global illness has posed on the film industry. That being said, it’s not going to be a quick return.
You see, there’s a caveat—many of those people that will happily return to watch films on the big screen will be doing so at their own pace. Of those 70% that are willing to return to the cinema, only 20% said they would rush back immediately after the doors open. Another 25% said they would wait a few days before coming back. However, a whopping 45% said that they would wait “a few weeks,” and 11% said they would wait “several months” before enjoying the theatrical experience again.
Obviously, if those numbers are to be believed, it’s not going to be this grand, joyous return to cinemas like exhibitors are likely hoping for. With 56% waiting at least a few weeks, that means we’re looking at a full month or so before cinemas are going to be back at a relatively normal capacity. So, even if the doors magically open in May (likely not happening, sadly), it’s probably going to be closer to summertime before the majority of people are really ready to give it a chance.
There are other factors that probably should be considered, as well. The economy being the biggest issue. Unfortunately, if these closures last until June, which is becoming more and more likely, that means most other businesses will remain closed over the next two months. That, of course, means that there will be a large portion of the US population that won’t be employed, as companies look to lay people off to survive this pandemic. Basically, money is going to be a factor, as most people will just be happy to pay their bills and probably won’t be quick to lay down $10 per ticket, plus concessions, to return to the multiplex.
All that to say, there’s hope that things will return to normal for theaters. However, it’s not going to happen anytime soon, and it’s not going to happen all at once.