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Popularity of VCRs Hurting Movie-Theater Attendance, Study Says

February 25, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ The skyrocketing popularity of videocassette recorders is ″cannibalizing″ traditional movie theater audiences and proving that there’s no place like home, according to a new study released Monday.

The annual study by Market Facts Inc., an international market research company, said Americans are watching more movies than ever before - but they’re staying home to do so. And that trend to movie viewing on home VCRs is threatening to seriously reduce movie theater attendance, it said.

The most dramatic increase in at-home viewing on VCRs is among the 10-19 age group, which traditionally has had the strongest theater attendance record, according to the study.

The survey of 25,000 individuals age 10 and older found that box-office attendance by 10- to 19-year-olds fell 20 percent in 1985, while that age group tripled its viewing of rented VCR movies during the same time period.

The survey concluded that movie theater attendance in the United States has peaked with no significant increases in sight without a stellar lineup of box- office hits.

″Movie theater attendance has fallen victim primarily to the current VCR explosion, which is cannibalizing traditional box-office audiences,″ said the syndicated study titled ″The Entertainment Monitor.″

″There must be a rapid increase in ‘VCR dates’ among America’s teenagers,″ said Mike Freehill, Market Facts spokesman in reference to the 10-19 age group. ″Faced with the rising cost of attending a theater movie, youngsters are renting one or more movies, gathering with friends, and saving money.

″This represents a dramatic social change for teenagers that, if it continues, will have an even bigger impact on the industry when these youngsters reach their 20s.″

Movie theater attendance among the 20-29 age group - the second-most active group at the box office - has been declining for the past two years as people in that age range opt for home-movie viewing on VCRs, the study said.

Among all age groups, ″VCR owners’ frequency of movie-theater attendance has declined consistently over the past three years,″ the study said.

In addition, the study found that VCR owners ″watched nearly six times more rented videocassette movies this past year than theater movies.″

The study said Americans are expected to continue their movie-viewing trend at an annual growth rate of seven percent through the next two years, but that 40 percent of all movies viewed in America this year will be seen on a VCR.

″The findings reported in ‘The Entertainment Monitor’ reinforce current discussions on the need for industrywide marketing programs to lure audiences back into movie theaters,″ said Freehill.

The study predicts that 60 percent of all U.S. homes will have a VCR by the end of 1988.

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