The Quorum

THE FALL GUY Is Already Available To Watch At Home. Is That Too Soon?

Earlier this year, The Quorum, in partnership with Puck, conducted a study of 2,000 people and asked a series of questions about the theater-going experience. Respondents were asked to self-identify into one of three groups: 

Frequents – people who see a movie in a theater at least once a month

Casuals – people who see a movie in a theater a few times a year

Home – people who only watch movies at home

We then asked folks in the Casual and Home groups why they don’t go to the theater more often. This was done through an open-ended question, meaning they weren’t given pre-determined choices. There was no prompting of answers. 

Many of the results were as expected. For example, 44% of people said that cost was a factor. Beyond price, the second most cited reason for not going to the theater was the convenience of watching at home. Neither one of those is especially surprising. But, further down the list was an answer that did catch us off guard. 

Four percent of people said that they don’t go to the theater because they know the film will be available to watch at home in a matter of weeks. That’s right, people are becoming increasingly savvy about the collapsing theatrical windows. 

Agreed, 4% is not a lot. For an industry that was pulling in over $11B in domestic grosses before the pandemic, a 4% reduction represents roughly $500M. That’s not an earth-shattering amount, though for an industry that is trying to return to pre-pandemic levels, it’s an important figure

Still, it’s important to pay attention to this number for two reasons. First, in all likelihood, the percentage of people who understand windows and skip the theater in favor of waiting to watch a film at home is likely higher than 4%. That’s just the number of people who were able to name that as a reason off the top of their head in an unprompted survey. There are countless others who feel the same way but cited other reasons or simply couldn’t recall windows in a survey environment. 

Second, this number is likely to grow. For those who love and support theatrical, it’s vitally important that we put a lid on this number. Four percent may seem “acceptable” or “manageable” (though we would argue it’s already too high), but we have to ensure that it doesn’t creep higher in the months and years to come. 

The argument for shrinking windows is clear. The lion’s share of a film’s box office grosses are made in the first six weeks. After that, you enter the long tail. So why not pull it from theaters and move the film on to its next revenue stream while the marketing is still relatively fresh in people’s minds?

For decades, audiences have known that a film would eventually be available to watch at home through video or TV. They also knew they had to wait several months for that to happen. That created a theatrical urgency. If you didn’t catch it in theaters, you had to be patient. Audiences understood that choice. 

Today, that wait has been reduced to only a few weeks. Case in point: THE FALL GUY, which became available as a digital release just three weeks after opening in theaters. The film grossed over $8M the week before it hit streaming, and it was still in the top 5. 

The good news is that FALL still made over $7.5M over the long Memorial Day weekend despite also being available to watch at home. That means there is still an appetite to see the film in theaters, which is great for Universal. They get two bites at the apple—revenue from theaters and revenue from home viewership. 

The desire to double-dip is only going to hurt them in the end. That 4% of people who said they don’t go to theater because of shrinking windows will only grow larger if studios continue to support that behavior. There are lots of reasons why the summer box office is down. We can talk about the films themselves, the marketing, the challenge of launching new IP, etc. But let’s not ignore the fact that the studios have trained people not to go to the theater. 

As we talk about the doom of gloom of the summer box office, it’s not hard to see why grosses are down. And quite frankly, it’s up to the studios to overcome a problem they helped to create. 

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