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Audience habits and preferences for streaming and theater-going in the age of COVID-19 and beyond

Valentine, Taryn R.
This research sought to understand the perceived substitutability between theater-going and streaming in terms of big-budget blockbusters through focus groups consisting of participants 18-to-24 years old who are frequent video streamers and movie theater-goers. The study found participants did not perceive going to the movie theater and streaming movies at home as substitutes for each other. The theatrical experience, as described by participants, was highly valued and not easily or satisfactorily replicated at home. Participants also viewed watching movies, whether at the theater or at home, as a social experience that should primarily be done in groups. Additionally, action films part of big-budget franchises were reported to be the main type of film drawing participants to the movie theater, whereas smaller, indie films were seen as films to stream at home. The implications of this research are far reaching, as the pandemic caused a restructuring of the film and theater industry to accommodate streaming, audiences have increased their streaming and become accustomed to seeing new release films at home. This research will help industry professionals plan the types of films to release in theaters versus on streaming platforms. Also, this research points to a resurgence in theater attendance as more big-budget action films are released in the summer of 2021.