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Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
May 7, 2024
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?

We dove into the latest foot traffic analytics for leading movie theater chains – AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark – to uncover how recent consumer behavior and visitor demographics are setting the stage for the cinema category’s next chapter. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Movie theater visits remain below pre-pandemic levels, highlighting a new category normal that sees lower baseline traffic with visit spikes driven by major releases.  
  • The first several months of 2024 saw persistent year-over-year (YoY) visit gaps for theater operators – likely a by-product of delayed blockbuster releases.
  • At the same time, the data reveals a marked increase in the affluence of theater-goers – providing exhibitors with important opportunities to increase revenue.   

Visits in 2024: An Underwhelming Sequel So Far

Cinemas have yet to reclaim their pre-COVID glory – and during the first few months of 2024, visits to AMC and Regal, and to a lesser extent Cinemark, remained substantially below 2019 levels. While some of these visit gaps can be attributed to exhibitors downsizing their real estate portfolios, the rise in at-home entertainment continues to impact pre-pandemic foot traffic comparisons.

In addition, since the pandemic, blockbuster releases have taken on even greater importance as drivers of movie theater visit spikes. And in early 2024, a relative absence of new blockbusters took its toll on theater operators’ performance. Between January and April 2024, cinema leaders saw YoY visit dips – likely attributable in part to delayed releases. And smash-hit titles that drove box-office success in early 2023 – including Avatar: The Way of Water, Ant Man, and The Super Mario Bros. Movie – helped set the stage for challenging YoY comparisons.

More High-Income Theater Visitors 

Despite these visit gaps, analysis of changing visitor demographics suggests that there remain a variety of ways for theater operators to succeed. 

Analyzing cinema leaders’ captured markets with demographics from STI: PopStats shows that today’s movie-goers are more affluent than they were before COVID. After dipping in Q1 2023, the median household incomes (HHIs) of AMC, Regal Cinema, and Cinemark’s captured markets spiked in Q1 2024, surpassing the chains’ own pre-pandemic benchmarks. This shift may be due in part to discretionary spending cutbacks by less affluent consumers – who may be particularly inclined to hold off on going to the movies when there are no big releases on offer.

For exhibitors, the increase in visitors’ spending power presents an important opportunity: Affluent movie-goers are likely to spend more on revenue-boosting concessions and premium formats, a boon for theater chains at a time when visit gaps linger.

Looking Ahead

Five years after COVID sent movie theaters into a tailspin, the category is holding its own. Though routine visits remain lower than they were before the pandemic, a shifting customer base continues to provide operators with new avenues for success.

For more data-driven entertainment insights, visit Placer.ai.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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