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Those Darn Kids Aren’t Going to Enough Movies

The Projector

Those Darn Kids Aren’t Going to Enough Movies

Lauren Kay House

If you spend much time following weekend box office results, you'll notice that the film business is always either breaking all types of records or suffering the worst slump in X amount of years. That sort of hyperbolic tone is to be expected -- it's not very exciting to write stories that are tempered with perspective -- but one nagging trend we've heard about a lot this year is that we are going through an actual box office decline. We're not going to spend a lot of time debating that -- others do that better than we could anyway -- but it is worth noting that one of the prevailing chicken-little cries is that younger audiences aren't checking out movies in the theater as much as they used to. That's a problem because studios build their slates around folks under 25, who tend to be loyal, frequent customers. Now Variety wants to find out why. Let the pointless conjecture commence!

The trade paper doesn't offer up concrete numbers to back up the claim that young people are seeing fewer movies, but it does point to the fact that "Footloose" and "In Time" aren't doing all that well, which is, we guess, something. Additionally, Variety mentions a statistic that "teen-targeted films" over the last five years have had weaker "multiples," which is a measurement of how much of a movie's overall box office total is snagged in the opening weekend. If "the kids" want to see a movie nowadays, they'll go the first weekend. After that, the movie is practically forgotten about.

To get to the bottom of all this, the Ipsos OTX MediaCT Worldwide Motion Picture Group, a market research group, decided to poll about 2,500 people under the age of 25 back in August. (They did the same thing a year ago.) And what they found is that responders generally were less impressed with 3D than a year ago and were less likely to say that movies were an affordable form of entertainment. But the misery for studio heads didn't end there. Almost half of all males surveyed said they had less free time than a year ago, and more young ladies are watching movies at home than in 2010. So, yeah, nothing happy to report at all.

We tend to take the long view about these sorts of surveys. (We admit that's easy to do when our entire job isn't based on getting butts in seats.) Still, it does seem like the overall economic downturn is having an effect on some behavior in under-25s. (Well, at least the 2,500 surveyed by Ipsos.) Research reports like these inspire a thousand different "What does it all mean?" think-pieces, with the usual culprits ("Movies are bad now!" "Studios aim for the lowest common denominator!" "Can we blame George Lucas?!?") being trotted out. But rather than learning the "lesson" of this survey, maybe it's wise for studios to accept what might be their future. Sure, the economy is going to turn around eventually -- Right? This is going to happen, yes? -- but new platforms for watching films is here to stay. And that means that assuming "the kids" will automatically go to the theater is a thing of a past.

Ironically, the one supposed bright spot in the Variety piece? Despite all the sour under-25 news, everyone seems convinced that the new "Twilight" movie is going to do gangbusters. At least there's that.

B.O. falters with core aud [Variety]