Older Moviegoers Make up a Third of the Market, New Study Shows

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Sat, 04/01/2017 - 16:50 -- Nick Dager

Adults fifty and older make up more than 30-percent of all visits by moviegoers, according to a new study conducted by marketing data analytics firm Movio on behalf of The American Association of real Possibilities (AARP). The study, entitled, The 50-plus Moviegoer, An Industry Segment That Should Not Be Ignored found that mid-life and older moviegoers—in particular, those ages 50 and older—are a powerful force at the box office.

The 50-plus group is bolstering blockbusters, driving drama film box office revenue, as well as creating lucrative new niches that don’t rely on mega budgets and foreign exhibition success to be profitable. The study offers a detailed look at the 50-plus moviegoer, highlighting specific trends that are helpful to content creators and theater owners alike.

“Theater owners and studios will benefit from the insight provided in this study, which demonstrates that this demographic cluster – the 50-plus – has the ability to significantly contribute to the success of movies at the domestic box office,” said Heather Nawrocki, director, AARP Movies for Grownups. “The 50-plus audience segment has disposable income, more leisure time and high loyalty to specific actors making this segment extremely valuable.”

The AARP study showed how the 50-plus moviegoer has helped establish an emerging genre referred to as “mature thrillers.” This new category includes action-driven films starring veteran male actors.

The study found that 51-percent of the moviegoers who saw Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Taken 3, The November Man and A Walk Amongst The Tombstones, were over age 50 compared with 32-percent for the total American cinema audience.

The research suggests this phenomenon is because fans are aging alongside their favorite action stars such as Liam Neeson, Kevin Costner and Tom Cruise.

Surprisingly, the 50-plus demographic is a significant contributor to the overall success of blockbuster movies, such asStar Wars: The Force Awakens in which 50-plus viewers made up 27-percent of the total audience. 

Movio also found that the 50-plus audience is critical to the success of several genres of films.   According to the study, this audience:

Represents 75-percent of all visits at art house movies

Contributed to 56-percent of Christian films

Drove 54-percent of independent film box office revenues

The Movio study also found movies that were attended by a majority of 50 and older audiences tended to perform well against how much it cost to produce the movie.  Movio found that Christian and art house performed the best as a category, while specific movies such as Still Alice, Brooklyn and Spotlight also performed well.

This demographic attends movies marketed specifically for them at a rate that is significantly greater than that of the average moviegoer. 50 and older audiences who watched Woman in Gold attended the cinema 14.5 times over the past year, compared to 6.7 times for the average American moviegoer overall. The Hundred-Foot Journey, Philomena and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had similar appeal demonstrating that films about older women, for older women, are successful with this audience.

And this audience can create its own blockbusters.

This phenomenon happened most recently when 86-year-old Clint Eastwood teamed up with 60-year-old Tom Hanks to tell the story of then-58-year-old Chesley Sully Sullenberger’s miracle landing on the Hudson River. Sully generated $124 million at the domestic box office to date against a production budget of $60 million driven by an audience that was 57-percent ages 50-plus.

The AARP study highlighted that older adults also demonstrate distinctive behavior around film release cycles. Movio research has shown this group is significantly less likely than moviegoers under 50 to attend films on opening weekend, with 60-percent of their visits coming after opening weekend, and on average, 15.2 days post-opening.  

"A better understanding of 50-plus moviegoers can influence the entire movie value chain: from production decisions, to where and when to exhibit a movie and the most effective communication strategy to motivate their cinema-going behavior,” said Matthew Liebmann, senior vice president, Movio.  “The ultimate opportunity is to drive incremental revenue for filmmakers and exhibitors whilst also enhancing the satisfaction of this vital segment."

A full copy of the research can be downloaded at aarp.org/movies50plus