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The full impact is yet to be known and felt

LOS ANGELES, May 7, 2020 – Beginning March 7, Screen Engine/ASI, the leading market research company specializing in multi-platform entertainment content testing, has been polling Americans across the country weekly to determine what they are doing, feeling and intending to do when the pandemic restrictions have been lifted or at least modified.  Over 27,000 people between the ages of 13 and 64 have participated.   

At the forefront is concern for the health of family and friends. Almost as compelling as health is worry about the general state of the economy. For the week ending May 2, over half of all Americans surveyed said they are very concerned about the coronavirus, up 100% from when the question was asked eight weeks earlier.  While there are regional differences, the most interesting is gender, with women (especially 50+) more apprehensive than men across the board.

Moving forward, Americans are in no hurry to go back to events involving large groups, with only 5% saying they would go to sporting events, concerts and shows, and 7% to the movies.  In addition to the 54% who don’t know when it will be safe to be in crowds are 36% who plan to avoid large groups and gatherings. 

The Cultural Shift Affects Entertainment Choices 

“Social change of this sort is unprecedented in the quick time in which it has occurred,” said Kevin Goetz CEO and founder Screen Engine/ASI.   “Changes in habits that might have taken five to seven years to actualize are now in the works, with entertainment an excellent example.  We’re seeing an increase in traditional television viewing, the expected increase in streaming and acceptance of premium video on demand.”

The appetite for movies remains, with at-home viewing (live, recorded, streaming, etc.) indicated as increasing over the past several weeks for 43% and a higher 52% of moviegoers (those having seen 6 or more movies in the preceding year; comprising over a third of the sample). What findings suggest is that the venue may prove to be less important. 

To lure consumers back to venues of all types, the customer needs to be fully assured that the places they are entering are coronavirus-free and that those sitting around them in the same venue are coronavirus-free. Although all respondents placed this at the top of the list, mirroring their stronger COVID concerns, in general, females especially want reassurance on this account (58% vs. 44% of males).

Content, of course, remains key and there is a desire to see films that hit on consumer appeal. This aspect increases close to 4 in 10 among core moviegoers.

Encouraging is that moviegoers look forward to the escape of going to a movie theater, to “big” movies and to the overall theater experience important to again capture some of the momentum. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

The study’s findings point to major health concerns among consumers, which are the more complicated issues to address moving forward than a focus on compelling content. Until people are confident that they are in a safe environment, there will not be a rush back to any venue which involves being in large crowds, especially for those who live in densely populated areas and females who are 35 and over. The implication from this is that movie theaters, stadiums, concert halls and other venues housing large events have a major messaging campaign to launch once they do begin to reopen. In hand with this, the relationship between consumer and business has been experiencing a shift because the internet has given the consumer a voice never before available. 

It is unrealistic to think that a return to what resembles normal will be immediate, as evidenced in the slow progress being shown in cities and towns that are starting to re-open businesses. As quickly as people have pivoted from their former lifestyle choices to the current imposed on them, the return to the former will be much slower.  While a quarter of Americans think their lives are forever changed in a negative way, an equal number think the changes are positive, and half think that their lives will not change.

Screen Engine/ASI will continue to monitor consumer response to COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

About Screen Engine/ASI

Screen Engine/ASI, headquartered in Century City, CA, is one of the top three data acquisition and analytics companies serving the international entertainment industry. SE/ASI conducts movie test screenings, creative advertising testing, in-theater exit polling, television program and promo testing, content lifecycle research, pre-release tracking of movie, TV & home entertainment titles, and a variety of digital entertainment research products through online, central site, and in-field intercept methods. SE/ASI is a full-service research and information agency and consultancy working with major Studios, television broadcasters, cable networks, streaming services, production companies and other leaders in digital entertainment to better identify and leverage opportunity and assess and manage risk.

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This study was conducted using Screen Engine/ASI’s weekly nationwide Tracktion survey of media consumers. Results presented cover the period of March 7, 2020, at the start of increased COVID-19 spread in the U.S., through May 2, 2020. 


Natalie Yallouz/Tiffany Wagner