A Theatrical Movie On-Demand for $20? Americans Want to Pay More Like $6

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A shuttered movie theater in Los Angeles on March 19, 2020, days after most chains, including AMC and Cinemark, temporarily shuttered all locations.

The on-demand price range that many would be willing to pay for a movie in theaters is $5 to $8, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds.

On March 16, the same day major exhibitors AMC and Cinemark indefinitely shuttered all U.S. locations, NBCUniversal took a step toward collapsing the theatrical window. The studio said it would release a sequel to its 2017 animated hit Trolls (which grossed $346 million globally) on-demand on April 10. The price: $19.99.

Other major studios mostly haven't followed suit so far, preferring to delay their pricey tentpoles and save them for theatrical release first. And its unclear whether or not most American consumers will embrace a $20 price point if more theatrical-bound films go directly to on-demand platforms. 

U.S. adults say the on-demand price range that they'd be willing to pay for a movie currently in theaters is $5 to $8, with the optimum price being $6, a new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds. The survey was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2,200 adults from March 19 to 21.

In what could reflect economic insecurity amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the acceptable price range found in the survey is not only lower than $20 but also lower than some on-demand prices for studio films that have already had a run in theaters. While 40 percent of those surveyed said they'd be more likely to rent movies at home now, 35 percent replied that they'd be less likely to do so. 

And while some Wall Street analysts have suggested that streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Disney+ could get a boost amid stay-at-home orders, more Americans said they were less likely to make those buys.

Some 30 percent of respondents in the survey said they'd be more likely to subscribe to a film and TV streaming service like Netflix or Hulu now, while 35 percent they'd be less likely to do so. Younger adults, ages 18-29, said they were more likely to sign up for a service now, but the 45-54, 55-64 and 65+ age groups said they were less likely to subscribe now. 

When asked if they had subscribed to a streaming service since January 1, about 70 percent of respondents replied that they hadn't. Among the 2,200 adults in the sample, 57 percent said they subscribed to one or two streaming services, while just 7 percent said they subscribed to five or six services. 

As for what Americans are watching while staying at home, film and TV comedies appear to be in, while dystopian titles are out. About 70 percent of U.S. adults said they were more likely to watch comedies amid the outbreak, the highest percentage for any genre followed by action/adventure (63 percent), drama (58 percent), thriller/mystery (56 percent) and documentary (53 percent). 

Only 15 percent of those surveyed said they'd be more likely to watch dystopian films or shows now.