Americans Are Still Hesitant to Go to the Movies, but Omicron Hasn’t Really Made Them Less Comfortable

Roughly 1 in 5 adults say they plan to return to theaters in the next month, but a nearly equal share says it will be more than six months before they go back
January 05, 2022 at 12:01 am UTC

At the dawn of a new year, it’s more of the same when it comes to consumer comfort with moviegoing, as more than half of U.S. adults remain uncomfortable returning to theaters. But there may be some hope for the struggling theater industry. 

Morning Consult’s Return to Normal data reveals that the omicron variant has so far had little impact on consumers’ willingness to return to cinemas, as comfort levels over the late December holiday season stayed roughly in line with those reported in the fall, despite the surge of COVID-19 cases across the country.

Comfort With Going to the Movies Shows Little Change Over the Holidays, Despite Omicron

The share of respondents who said they feel comfortable going to a movie theater right now
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Weekly surveys are conducted among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults and have a margin of error of +/-2%.

What the numbers say 

  • For the second week in a row, 47 percent of U.S. adults said they currently feel comfortable seeing a movie in theaters, down 4 percentage points from Dec. 19 and down 8 points from the record high of 55 percent on July 4, according to data from Morning Consult’s Return to Normal trackers. Comfort levels are roughly in line with what they were in late September and early October. 
  • Younger consumers have consistently remained the most comfortable with returning to movie theaters, as 61 percent of millennials and 58 percent of Gen Zers said they feel OK seeing a film in theaters, as of Dec. 30. However, comfort dipped among Gen Z adults in recent weeks, falling 8 points from Dec. 19. 
  • Still, Americans are currently more comfortable with moviegoing than they are with going to an amusement park (42 percent), theater performance (41 percent) or concert (35 percent).

Roughly 1 in 5 Adults Say It Will Be More Than Six Months Before They Head Back to the Movies

Respondents were asked when they would feel comfortable going to a movie theater
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Weekly surveys are conducted among roughly 2,200 U.S. adults and have a margin of error of +/-2%.

More on the numbers 

  • For the second week in a row, 18 percent of adults said they plan to return to the movies in the next month. That figure has hovered around 20 percent since Aug. 3, and a roughly equal share of adults said it will be more than six months before they venture back to cinemas as of the most recent poll. 
  • As the holiday movie season wraps up (and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” continues to reign supreme at the box office), 19 percent of respondents said they are currently seeing movies in theaters, marking a high for recent months. The share has not dipped below 13 percent or ticked above 19 percent since September. 
  • Consumers’ timeline for returning to movie theaters is outpacing their timeline for returning to concerts, as just 11 percent said they currently attend concerts and only 12 percent said they plan to do so in the next month.

The impact 

While younger consumers continue to express greater comfort returning to activities like moviegoing, the data suggests Americans in general are still hesitant to embrace out-of-home entertainment as the omicron variant surges across the country. And while certain activities have seen tiny upticks in consumer comfort from the previous week, it may take many more weeks for comfort to rebound in a meaningful way— similar to the consumer response following the wave of the delta variant over the summer.

Still, omicron has not yet seriously impacted consumer comfort with going to the movies. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” continues to smash the domestic box office with a tally of over $600 million, providing some hope for studios that audiences will come out for tentpole films despite omicron’s presence. But studios aren’t counting on them to follow through: Sony Pictures has already pushed back the release of “Morbius” from January to April, and more studios could soon follow in an effort to hold their big-budget movies for a presumably improved moviegoing environment.  

The most recent Return to Normal survey was conducted Dec. 30, 2021, among 2,200 U.S. adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Sarah Shevenock previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering the business of entertainment.

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