Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults Would Rather Wait to Watch Movies on Streaming

Maybe Jason Kilar was just really into customer service.

A new poll by HarrisX, exclusive to IndieWire, found that 34 percent of U.S. adults prefer to watch movies in theaters, which means a solid two-thirds would rather wait for them to be released on streaming.

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“The competition continues between streaming services and the Hollywood engine. While we still see evidence of loyal movie-goers in recent box office numbers, our study shows that 2 in 3 movie watchers prefer to stream movies at home,” Alli Brady, VP at HarrisX, told IndieWire. “Despite this causing some upheaval for the industry, it also means that the demand for content is only increasing – nearly half of consumers say they stream movies weekly, more than 7x as frequently as those who do so in theaters.”

Brady’s pollsters also found that 30 percent of us stream a movie two or more times per week — the same percentage of respondents said they go to movie theaters “a few times a year.”

Don’t cry, AMC, Cinemark, and others: we still prefer you.

For those of us more aligned with Nicole Kidman’s opinion on the matter, it is “the experience of watching a movie on the big screen” that brings in 59 percent of patrons. The next-closest factor, “the quality of surround-sound systems,” was checked off by 47 percent of the survey’s respondents. Thirty-nine percent said escaping from “distractions” at home was important to them.

Theater recliners resonated with 37 percent, and refreshments captured 32 percent of the vote. Here are the others in favor of theaters, in descending order:

This survey was conducted online by HarrisX from March 11-12, 2024. It captured responses from more than 1,000 U.S. adults, and weighted them by gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and income where necessary to reflect the population. The sampling margin of error was 3 percentage points, plus or minus.

MAESTRO, from left: Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein, Carey Mulligan as Felicia Montealegre, 2023. ph: Jason McDonald / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection
‘Maestro,’ like all Netflix films, skipped a wide theatrical release — maybe that’s why it was shut out as the Oscars.©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection

And then there are the homebodies. (To be fair, we can also generally relate to this group.)

Most (53 percent) of those who do not frequent theaters cited the cost of movie tickets as a major reason; 42 percent also mentioned the cost of concessions. While those recliners were a pretty solid motivator for the theater crowd, an even larger percentage (40%) of the streaming lovers cited the “comfort of viewing at home versus in a theater” as a reason to wait.

Twenty-four percent said they’re just straight-up “uninterested.” We’re not sure what their problem is. “Concerns over sanitation and hygiene,” like COVID and the flu, keep 23 percent of respondents away. Twenty-two percent need to pee, citing the “inability to pause the movie or take a break.” (Elsewhere in the study, 52 percent said movies should be 1.5-2 hours.)

The rest of the reasons from those who rarely go to movies theaters, again in descending order, are:

  • Distractions from other members of the audience: 19%

  • Inconvenient travel (travel time to theater, traffic, parking, etc.): 15%

  • Selection of films showing: 13%

  • Inconvenient theater locations: 13%

  • Limited availability of or inconvenient show times: 11%

  • Seat selection: 8%

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